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Defra Air Quality Update. A Clearer Future Conference 30 May 2012 Mansion House, Doncaster Robert Vaughan, National And Local Air Quality, Atmosphere and Local Environment, Defra

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defra air quality update

Defra Air Quality Update

A Clearer Future Conference30 May 2012Mansion House, DoncasterRobert Vaughan, National And Local Air Quality,

Atmosphere and Local Environment, Defra

On going drivers to improve air quality to reduce impacts on health, the environment, and climate change
  • Exacerbates heart & lung conditions.
  • Main health pollutants are particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground level ozone
  • Health impacts attributed to PM2.5 alone are estimated to cause an average reduction in life expectancy of 6 months (an effect equivalent to 29,000 deaths each year)
  • Economic costs of health impacts are estimated at £16 billion annually (range £9 – 19 billion).
  • Contributes significantly to long term anthropomorphic climate change.
  • Short lived climate forcers such as black carbon and methane can cause warming in the short term too.
  • Most actions to reduce climate change will support air quality; there are tensions in some key areas of concern, e.g. biomass for energy, dieselisation of transport.
  • Causes damage to a wide range of ecosystems services
  • 54% of UK sensitive habitats are currently at risk from acidity
  • 71% of sensitive habitats are at risk of eutrophication
  • Declines in critical load exceedances slight to 2030; damage is ongoing
  • Reduced crop yields, particularly from ozone, affecting food security.
there are now some new drivers to improve focus on air quality
There are now some new drivers to improve focus on air quality
  • Public Health Outcomes Framework
  • National Planning Policy Framework
  • The Red Tape Challenge
  • EU Review of Air Quality Legislation
  • Rising public interest
public health outcomes framework air pollution a public health outcome indicator
Public Health Outcomes Framework: Air Pollution a Public Health outcome indicator
    • Healthy lives, healthy people: Improving outcomes and supporting transparency: Public Health Outcomes Framework
    • Focus on achieving positive health outcomes and reducing health inequalities Sets key indicators of public health from the wider determinants of public health through to effectiveness in reducing premature mortality
  • Air pollution is one of sixty health outcome indicators:
    • The mortality effect of anthropogenic particulate air pollution (measured as fine particulate matter, PM2.5*) per 100,000 Population
  • The current burden of particulate air pollution in the UK is estimated to be equivalent to nearly 29,000 deaths in 2008 at typical ages and an associated loss of population life of 340,000 life years lost.
public health outcome framework impact assessment
Public Health outcome Framework:Impact assessment

Incremental contribution that indicators could make to increasing life expectancy by considering the effect of a 10% improvement in each indicator on life expectancy

Indicator Effect of 10% change on life expectancy (years)

  • Premature mortality from cancer 0.17
  • Premature mortality from CVD 0.14
  • Excess weight - adults 0.1
  • Smoking prevalence (over 18s) 0.03
  • Population vaccination coverage 0.05
  • Air pollution 0.05
  • Premature mortality from respiratory diseases 0.05
  • Infant mortality 0.04
  • Premature mortality of people with mental illness 0.03
  • Cancer diagnosed at stage 1 and 2 0.02
  • Premature mortality from chronic liver disease 0.02
  • Suicide 0.02
  • Road injuries and deaths 0.02
  • Premature mortality from communicable diseases 0.02

(extract from table 1 of Public Health Outcomes Framework Impact Assessment)

public health outcomes framework
Public Health Outcomes Framework
  • Inclusion of this indicator will enable Directors of Public Health to prioritise action on air quality in their local area to help reduce the health burden from air pollution.
  • Defra is working with DH to
    • Ensure the benefits from this indicator are realised by local authorities.
    • articulate local impacts of air quality in ways that are meaningful to the public.
  • We expect this framework both to help raise awareness of the importance of air quality in public health locally and to support local authority action to improve air quality.
national planning policy framework
National Planning Policy Framework
  • Planning policies should sustain compliance with and contribute towards EU limit values or national objectives for pollutants, taking into account the presence of Air Quality Management Areas and the cumulative impacts on air quality from individual sites in local areas.
  • Planning decisions should ensure that any new development in Air Quality Management Areas is consistent with the local air quality action plan.
red tape challenge proposals
Red Tape Challenge Proposals
  • “You told us that air quality legislation should be simplified and that action to improve air quality should be taken by those with relevant powers to address the key issues. You also said that the Clean Air Act is out of date and certain smoke control regulations are no longer needed.”
    • Focus local air quality requirements on what is essential to meet EU targets
    • Review roles and responsibilities to ensure action is taken by those with relevant powers to address key issues
    • Review role of transport measures in meeting AQ targets
    • Consolidate and simplify Regulations
has local air quality action planning worked
Has local air quality action planning worked?
  • LAQM has been effective in improving detailed understanding of local air quality .
  • Most measures in Action Plans have been implemented
    • Key to success - close involvement of stakeholders incorporation into wider strategies/plans.
    • key barriers - economic displacement; lack of political will/support); lack of funding for large projects, and inadequate resources.
  • BUT Little evidence of quantification of reductions due to measures introduced.
  • Difficult to assess how effective Action Plans have been.
    • No evidence that they APs have directly resulted in the revocation of an AQMA,
    • Some evidence that they APs have helped to provide evidence to support/influence local measures that delivered local improvements
  • Benefits of cleaner (low emission) vehicles have been significantly hampered by the failure of the more stringent Euro standards to deliver the expected improvements.
  • LAQM designed to identify and tackle AQ hotspots, but need for substantial emissions and concentration reductions across large areas to achieve improvements.
some key questions
Some Key Questions
  • What is needed to prioritise air quality locally?
  • How can LAQM be organised to focus on action to improve air quality and support compliance?
  • What measures can local authorities take locally?
  • What role does local air quality monitoring and review and assessment have (in addition to national assessment)?
  • What role can air quality reporting play in raising local awareness and supporting action?
  • Consultation end this year early 2013 on options followed by consultation on Regulations
there are some improvements we can make in any case
There are some improvements we can make in any case...
  • Review Regulations – number of pollutants/dates.
  • Reduce reporting burden
    • Review requirements for USAs and Further Assessments
    • Review format for progress reports to be more public facing.
  • Better action planning: investigate tools and guidance for:
    • Selection of measures – standardised approaches to action planning based on the pollutant and environmental situation.
    • Quantification – improved case study examples, Sharing measures assessment data,
    • online database of action plans.
  • Investigate national frameworks eg Low Emission Zones
european commission review of air quality legislation
European Commission Review of air quality legislation
  • Significant programme of evidence contracts, reporting end 2012
  • Commission is reviewing the 2005 Thematic Strategy to inform ambition levels ; legislative proposals expected – 2013?
  • Overview of the process, outputs and their timing not yet clear
  • UK’s priorities for the review include:
    • To explore further scope for reducing negative health and environmental impacts of air pollution in the context of sustainable development, taking account of the costs and feasibility of additional actions.
    • To investigate opportunities for simplification and reduction of cost/admin burdens to ensure that air quality is easier to communicate, and that action can be targeted on areas where the health evidence is strongest.
    • To address the reasons for the compliance challenges being faced by Member States, especially in relation to nitrogen dioxide.

Further information

air quality grant supporting local action to improve air quality
Air Quality Grant: supporting local action to improve air quality
  • Air Quality Grant Scheme: 2011/12 £3.1m was allocated to support
    • LEZ feasibility studies
    • Anti idling campaigns
    • AirText and other Communications based projects
    • Local transport projects including EcoStars and Bus improvement
    • Low Emission Strategies
  • 2012/13 Grant Scheme launched in May and looking for projects that help to
    • reduce NOx/NO2PM emissions/concentrations
    • support work to investigate the feasibility of low emission zones or to implement low emission zones.
    • support work to review and collate research and monitoring evidence to improve understanding of air quality measures and share best practice.
    • improve air quality through, influencing behaviour and/or raising awareness to support public health objectives.
raising awareness of air quality issues
Raising awareness of air quality issues
  • Enable people to protect themselves from impacts of air pollution on their health
  • Encourage people to reduce the air pollution that they cause
  • Increases acceptance of necessary measures that aren’t always popular.


  • UK AIR website, automated Twitter feed (@DefraUKAir), and freephone helpline.
  • Support for local communications - AirText, CityAir
  • Building partnerships to help get others involved in conveying messages, particularly those with interests in health, transport and sustainability.


  • More support from transport sector in integrating air quality in their planning – moving beyond CO2 to think about PM and NO2.
  • More support from the health sector in ensuring that people understand the risks to their health and know what to do during pollution episodes – particularly for the most susceptible.
  • More engagement with business, so that their operations become more sustainable without adverse impacts on their ability to thrive and survive.
  • Greater localisation of the issue so that strategic issues are understood and accepted at the local level.
  • Everyone to do their bit, by taking simple actions that can make a difference.

What is needed?