Latest reports suggest that laws to ensure that the government is transparent about how they plan to reduce harmful air pollution are among those to be scrapped in the EU retained law bill.
A climbdown by ministers over the bill is said to have reduced the number of EU regulations to be automatically removed from the statute books from 4,000 to 600, but key rules on air pollution are among those still expected to be removed.
The regulations being taken out of UK law impose a duty on the government to publish a pathway to meeting tight emissions targets by 2030 for five noxious pollutants. The rules also enforce the need to publicly consult on the plans to cut emissions.
But in the National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2018, these two regulations are to be removed from UK law by the end of the year if the bill, which is going through the House of Lords, is approved.
Responding, Katie Nield, a clean air lawyer for ClientEarth, said: “They are proposing to snip out some quite critical elements that are there to make sure the targets are actually met. They want to remove the legal duty on government to have a plan to reduce the emissions, to frequently revise that plan and to publish it, and they want to remove the need to put that out to public consultation.
Speaking further, she said, “The duty to produce a pathway to meet the targets is a critical tool to make sure the government explains what it is doing and to hold them to account. It raises major alarm bells. It is hard to see how this move could be anything other than a strategy to skirt accountability.”
According to reports, the government’s pathway to reduce emissions had to be revised under the regulations this year because it was in breach of emission reduction targets for fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, which is classified as a cause of cancer.
Climate change council, NSIA sign MoU on emissions regulationsThe pathway is also not on track to meet emissions reduction targets by 2030 for four out of the five air pollutants from transport, agriculture and industry – nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, PM2.5, ammonia and non-methane volatile organic compounds.
Air pollution is known to pose one of the greatest environmental risks to health, according to the World Health Organization, which estimates that in 2019 outdoor air pollution caused 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide
“The fact that the government will no longer have to publish its plan, revise it and consult on it in the context of their current plan not on track to meet the targets, is really concerning,” Nield was quoted as saying.
More than half of the 600 laws set to be removed by the end of the year relate to the environment. Greener UK, a coalition of environmental groups including the RSPB, National Trust and Friends of the Earth, called on the government to remove at least two of the laws due to be chopped – relating to water and air quality.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.