New air pollution plans improve on EU rules, government claims

(The Guardian, 14 Jan 2019) UK proposals include new regulations on farmers, wood-burning stoves and diesel cars.

The government has set out new plans on air pollution that ministers say go beyond existing EU rules, with a pledge to improve air quality nationwide to the standards the World Health Organization (WH0) recommends.

Farmers will be subject to such air quality regulations for the first time to cut their growing contribution to pollution, under the government plans set out on Monday, while diesel vehicle drivers and owners of wood-burning stoves will also face restrictions.

Under the government’s plans, only the cleanest forms of biomass stoves will be available from 2022, and farmers will be required to reduce their fertiliser use and the emissions of ammonia – a potent air-polluting gas, which can combine with other forms of air pollution to lodge small particles deep in the lungs – from fertiliser and livestock. Sales of bituminous or traditional house coal may also be phased out.

Ministers said the number of people living in areas with pollution above WHO guidelines would be halved by 2025. The government said air pollution was one of the biggest threats to public health in the UK, behind only cancer, obesity and heart disease.

But critics said the plans were short on detail, with no deadlines for meeting the WHO limits, and fell short of the status of EU targets, which are enshrined in law. Legal challenges to the government over its failure to adhere to EU rules, which resulted in a supreme court ruling against ministers last year, have played a key part in bringing air pollution to government attention in the last five years.

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The Guardian, 14 Jan 2019: New air pollution plans improve on EU rules, government claims