ClientEarth calls for clarity on Scottish Government air pollution plans

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 3 August 2017 in News

ClientEarth warns that unless ministers take tougher action then Aberdeen and Edinburgh will not meet legal limits until 2020, and Glasgow will not comply until 2024

The Scottish Government has been urged to show more ambition in its efforts to reduce air pollution, with environmental lawyers ClientEarth warning that unless ministers take tougher action then Aberdeen and Edinburgh will not meet legal limits until 2020, and Glasgow will not comply until 2024.

The environmental group, which has been involved in a long-running legal battle with the UK Government over its response to high levels of pollution, has written to the Scottish Government to question how plans to trial a low emission zone in one Scottish city would help reduce dangerous levels elsewhere north of the border.

There are currently 38 Pollution Zones in Scotland, which have been declared by councils to be at risk of dangerous levels of air pollution. The number rose from 35 in 2015.


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The Scottish Government published its own Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy to outline its role in meeting UK-wide targets, with ClientEarth having previously warned the details in the documents were “simply plans for more plans”.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham last month updated the Scottish Government’s Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy on tackling air pollution to outline its role in meeting UK-wide targets.

In its report, which covered the progress made on improving air quality, the Scottish Government highlighted how Scotland became the first country in Europe to adopt in law the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on fine particulate, while creating four new Air Quality Management Areas, bringing the total to 38 in Scotland.

It also developed an app which advices people about alternative routes to help reduce exposure to pollution.

The Scottish Government created the National Walking Action Plan and an updated Cycling Action Plan to encourage people to move away from using cars.

But the plans came under fire from environmental campaigners, with Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland saying the ambition shown by Scottish ministers revealed “a remarkable disregard for public health”.

FoE Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “ClientEarth are absolutely right to ask the Scottish Government why they are proposing only one Low Emission Zone, when illegal and dangerous levels of pollution continue to plague many towns and cities in Scotland, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth.

“The Scottish Government needs to finalise the details of its first Low Emission Zone straight away, and needs to commit to introducing Low Emission Zones in all Scottish cities with illegal air pollution.

“Air pollution is mainly caused by traffic, and disproportionately harms the most vulnerable in our society, with children, the elderly, and people living in poverty worst affected. The Scottish Government must do much more to make transport cleaner and fairer.

“As well as Low Emission Zones we urge the Scottish Government to invest more in walking and cycling, to phase out fossil fuelled vehicles and to re-regulate the buses so that Councils have more say over local bus routes and fares.”

The letter from ClientEarth says: “Whilst we welcome the commitment to publish a proposal for a first Low Emission Zone in August, we understand that the first proposed LEZ will cover only one Scottish city. I would be grateful if you could provide further information on how limit values will be met in the shortest time possible in all parts of Scotland including in the three cities described.”

It adds that under the air quality plan, “without further measures, on roads managed directly by local authorities, compliance with legal limit values for NO2 is not projected in Edinburgh and Aberdeen until 2020 and in Glasgow not until 2024.”

Releasing the Scottish Government’s updated strategy, Cunningham said: “A year on and the package of actions set out in Scotland’s first clean air strategy is clearly helping people and encouraging them to think about ways of improving the quality of air in our communities. But we can’t be complacent and recognise much more needs to be done.”

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