Air Quality and some Food for Thought

DEFRA air quality consultation delay rejected

DEFRA’s application to defer publication of a revised air quality plan by six weeks has been rejected on the grounds that it was a “significant threat” to public health. The department must now start consulting on plans within the next 12 days.

The Government argued that publishing the document during the purdah period for either the local or general elections may present problems due to the sensitive nature of the issue. It was also suggested that any plans may also conflict with the next Government’s ideas for air quality policy / management. Contact us to find out more.

Meanwhile, Government Minister John Hayes has hinted at a diesel scrappage scheme. Over recent years there have been incentives for drivers to buy diesel cars. However, the evidence base now points to a limited reduction in CO2 combined with other serious air quality impacts including the production of NOx. The autumn budget is likely to move on tackling this with an increase in the cost of diesel and, in the meantime, it is widely expected that a subsidised scrappage scheme for older diesel vehicles will be developed.

EA Continue to Target Waste Crime

Last summer, following the illegal dumping of thousands of tonnes of waste at 17 sites across the Midlands, the North West and the North East, the Environment Agency launched ‘Operation Cesium’. Waste crime continues to be a major problem landing the UK economy an annual bill of almost £570 million.

Investigations and operations continue and, this month, raids took place at five separate addresses in Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Hertfordshire and led to the arrests of two suspects. Evidence was seized and, along with the two arrest, the EA says a third person is helping its officers with enquires.

Tackling waste crime and enforcing compliance with Duty of Care requirements will continue to be a focus for the Environment Agency and current interventions under their Regulated Industries Strategy have the aim of ensuring operators accurately described and characterise waste, that waste ends up in the right place and that all required paperwork is accurately completed and recorded.

Contaminated land funding ends in England

As of 1st April, funding for the identification and remediation of contaminated land in England will no longer be provided by central government. This follows DEFRAs December 2013 announcement that it would cut funding to all but “absolute emergency cases” and ongoing projects.

Remediation will now be left to the private sector to deliver as part of the normal development cycle. Of course sites where investigation and clean-up costs appear to exceed the value of the development may simply remain untouched which may mean the continuation of unknown pollution problems.

The government rejected the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee plea last September to restore the grants. The funding cuts have already contributed to a dramatic fall in site determinations. Official ambivalence, failures to provide training and changing legal advice have also taken their toll over the years.

Food for Thought in Doughnut Economics

It can be argued that the dominant economic model is based on a cyclical flow of income between households, businesses, banks, government and trade. Social and environmental aspects do not typically feature in the cycle other than for the impacts that result from the pursuit of growth.

However, in Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (Kate Raworth) the economy is re-drawn and embeds social and environmental aspects. The idea is presented as a diagram consisting of two rings. The ring of the doughnut provides a balanced situation; the hole in the middle of the doughnut represents a state of deprivation; outside of the ring and the Earth’s environmental limits are being stretched – climate change, water pollution, loss of species, etc.

The book identifies 7 major flaws in traditional economic thinking, and a chapter on each on how to fix them such as shifting the goal of economists from addressing financial to humanitarian concerns, recognizing ecology as a significant factor in economic growth, responsibly redistributing wealth, and so on. Well worth a read and very thought provoking.