TAG Responds to Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee on Air Quality

Here is our response to the consultation to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee on air quality.

Executive Summary

The Government takes insufficient account of health issues in its policies and has not properly complied with two court orders. It has failed to produce a plan for the reduction of nitrous oxides and harmful particulates that is effective and proportionate. In the proposed expansion of Heathrow, it is proposing a needless expansion project that far from bringing the economic benefits claimed, brings next to no net economic benefit and is dangerously likely to bring damage to health with the consequent misery and costs. The aviation section of the DfT and the CAA are far too powerful and far too irresponsible, behaving as if they are departments of Heathrow Airport. A far greater degree of cooperation and influence with DEFRA and the Department of Health is needed in future. The “Independent” Airports Commission was never independent, being biased in favour of Heathrow because its chair-person was, at the time of his appointment, an advisor to the Investment Strategy Committee and a member of the International Advisory Board of one of Heathrow’s biggest shareholders (GIC of Singapore). That interest was never made public. The Government has paid lip service to court orders requiring it to provide a detailed plan for the reduction of pollution.

  1. How effectively do Government policies take account of the health and environmental impacts of poor air quality?

1.1 Not at all; indeed, it is astonishing how little account the Government seems to take. London breached its total emissions cap on toxic air for the whole of 2017 on January 7th (see The Guardian 6th January 2017 Damian Carrington). The first sentence of the UK Supreme Court judgement in 2015 in the case brought by ClientEarth reads:

“These proceedings arise out of the admitted and continuing failure by the United Kingdom since 2010 to secure compliance in certain zones with the limits for nitrogen dioxide levels set by European law, under Directive 2008/50/EC”.

1.2 It has taken organisations like ClientEarth to monitor our air quality. The Government has started a National Policy Statement process for a third runway at Heathrow. Heathrow is one of the areas that already fails the required air quality standards. DEFRA’s compliance with the last court order of the High Court is awaited.

1.3 The Government has given no idea whatsoever how it is going to comply with the Air Quality Standards. In the case of Heathrow, there is a stated farcical notion that road traffic will not increase following expansion; a quite untenable notion that is negated by Heathrow’s proposal to increase car parking facilities.

1.4 Examples of the Government’s failures in its control of harmful emissions are:

1.4.1 Encouraging the use of diesel cars in the past and failure now to encourage sufficiently other non-polluting forms of vehicle power

1.4.2 Supporting the building of another airport runway in the south-east, which is already over polluted

1.4.3 Failure to research properly the amount of emissions from aviation and to tackle how this should be controlled

1.4.4  Setting up an airports commission with its chairman as someone employed by a shareholder of one of the selected options

1.4.5  Failure to research properly the amount of emissions from aviation and to tackle how this should be controlled

1.4.5  Producing an Airports National Policy Statement in which the environment is way down the list of considerations, 
rather than at the top.

1.4.6 Failing to take effective action to restrict cars in major cities (programs such as the central London congestion charge are little more than a money-making exercise).

1.4.7 Failing to encourage sufficiently the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cell power as a mass production form of transport

1.4.8 Failing to support advanced technologies such as nuclear fusion

 The DfT, CAA and NATS have been left to run over the communities without proper consideration of the effects of their actions. The minutes of the CAA Board meeting of December 2016 contain the telling statement that:

“NATS was concerned at the implication that when modernising airspace, a negotiated settlement could always be reached with communities, or that noise should be distributed equitably; in reality, this was not always possible or sensible. NATS therefore proposed a table-top exercise to trial an airspace change where difficult choices were needed. The Board welcomed this initiative and explained the CAA’s own position on securing clarity in government airspace policy. NATS thought that, given finite airspace design and regulation resources, the CAA may need to rank airspace change proposals to prioritise those where modernisation was most needed, if a cap on capacity in particular sectors was to be avoided”.

In the normal course of events, one would expect the elected Government of the day rather than unelected executive bodies to make such decisions, particularly if they are against the law pertaining at the time, and face the electorate at the next General Election.

1.6 The Scottish Government is being encouraged by Heathrow to support the building of a third runway – important for the Parliamentary vote on the draft National Policy Statement. The Scottish Government and Heathrow, according to the Scottish Office have signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” in which, amongst other things, Heathrow are procuring for the Scottish Government “£200m of construction-related spend in Scotland during planning and construction of the new runway, a £10m route development fund to help support new domestic routes and a reduction of £10 per passenger on landing charges paid by airlines operating services from Heathrow to Scotland”. The Scottish Office confirmed in writing to us that, “The Airports Commission concluded that the Heathrow north-west runway option could allow Heathrow to expand without more local residents being affected by aviation noise and confirmed that expansion could be delivered without breaching EU air quality law”. We know that the finding of the Airports Commission (“AC”) is incorrect firstly from the ClientEarth cases and secondly from the Sustainability Appraisal of the National Policy Statement.

1.7 For action to work, the Country needs effective and strong Government with effective monitoring. We hope that the EAC will be able to support this role to some extent. It is appalling that the current Government is so uncaring of the effects of emissions upon its citizens that it continues to publicly support the building of another runway in the southeast and in particular at Heathrow notwithstanding that its own Health Impact Analysis sets out the grievous damage to health of this project and this project is now found by the Government’s own investigation to possibly cause an overall economic loss over the next 60 years – in other words there will be no net benefit to the Country whatsoever even though people will have been poisoned in the process.

  1. Do these plans set out effective and proportionate measures to achieve necessary emissions reductions as quickly as possible?

2.1 No; they do not. The Government failed to comply with the court orders of either the Supreme Court or the latest 2016 case

in the High Court. The Government was ordered to provide a draft plan by the 24th April 2017 and a final plan by the 31st July 2017. It finally did so but the plans offer no proper basis for action and it is highly likely that this latest one fails to comply with the prior Court Order. In addition, the Government has produced its “Clean Growth Strategy” dated October 2017, which, while containing some good objectives, fails to endorse compliant policies that will deliver the necessary emissions reductions

2.2 The Government makes wild and unsubstantiated claims that are opaque and confusing. For example, the 2015 DEFRA document “Improving air quality in the UK – Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities” provides that:

“Over recent decades, air quality has improved significantly. Between 2005 and 2013 emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 38% and particulate matter has reduced by more than 16%”.

2.3 There is no evidence that this has happened at all. What are citizens without expert knowledge supposed to think? The evidence was reviewed by the Supreme Court in the 2013 case brought by ClientEarth in which the judge said:

“The Secretary of State accepts that the UK is in breach of article 13 in relation to certain zones, and that for certain zones it has not produced plans showing conformity by 2015; but asserts that for those zones compliance within that timetable is not realistically possible, due to circumstances out of its control and unforeseen in 2008”.

2.4 In 2015, the Government pats itself on the back saying that NOx has fallen by 38% but the Court upon investigation just 2 years earlier gets the Secretary of State to admit on oath that compliance with article 13 (which includes nitrogen dioxide as well as other gases) cannot be achieved. Which is right?

2.5 We know that the Government’s latest plans for tackling nitrogen dioxide are not sufficient because the High Court has said so.

2.6 In paragraph 5.27 of the draft National Policy Statement (NPS) it is said that:

“5.27 Air quality impacts are generated by all types of infrastructure development to varying degrees, and the geographical extent and distribution can cover a large area. At Heathrow Airport in 2013, aircraft movements were modelled to have contributed 14.3% on average to local levels of NOx on nearby areas. Road transport, by comparison, accounted for 50.8% of NOx emissions in the same areas. Off-road transport and mobile machinery (a category which would include airside vehicles) contributed 5.2%”.

2.7 In paragraph 2.18 of the Revised National Policy Statement of October 2017, the Government state that “Expansion must be deliverable within national targets on greenhouse gas emissions and in accordance with legal obligations on air quality”. Yet the Government’s Health Analysis shows that this cannot be done. The Revised NPS refers to out of date air quality analysis. It says that “The detailed results of this work can be found in a number of reports published by the Government on 25 October 2016……….An air quality re- analysis to test the Airports Commission’s work against the Government’s air quality plan;61.” The footnote 61 refers to the Air Quality Analysis weblink. Click on it and the reader is shown that the publication has been withdrawn!

2.8 Gatwick had previously stated to the EAC the virtual opposite of what was in the original draft NPS:

“This can be seen very clearly in the source apportionment modelling carried out by Defra as part of the Air Quality Plan. According to the PCM modelling, the aircraft contribution to NOx concentrations on the A4 Bath Road north of Heathrow in 2030 is about 46 μg/m3, or 55% of the total. (Other values are set out in Table 6 of the Brook Cottage Consultants report.) This contribution is, not surprisingly, also substantial in the period 2015-2030. Thus, there is a very significant and constant base of NO2 concentration at this location which will remain for a very long time and will be unaffected by the LEZ [Low Emission Zone] proposal. Indeed, with increased aircraft movements at Heathrow, it is expected that aviation emissions would continue to rise. The implication of this is that the emission reduction required from vehicles on this section of the Bath Road would have to be very large to overcome this obstacle and achieve compliance. However, the measures in the Air Quality Plan, i.e. the LEZ and RDE [European Real Driving Emission Standard] (RDE is a legal requirement rather than a Plan measure) will be even less effective here than anywhere else in London, because of the direct influence of aircraft emissions on the Bath Road”. [see para 5.3.8 Gatwick submission to EAC in May 2016]

2.9 The annual upper limit for NOx as prescribed in EU Directive 2008/50 is just 32 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air) for human protection and 24 μg/m3 for protection of vegetation and ecosystems.

2.10 The AC was headed by Sir Howard Davies who, at the time of his appointment, was an advisor to the Investment Strategy Committee and a member of the International Advisory Board of one of Heathrow’s biggest shareholders (GIC of Singapore). He was also a non-executive Director of Prudential plc and chairman of their risk committee. The subsidiary of Prudential called M&G Real Estate invested in land and property around Heathrow. Although Sir Howard Davies subsequently resigned his positions with GIC of Singapore, he has continued to hold a position as a Council Member of the Asian Bureau of Finance and Economic Research in Singapore and continues as a director of Prudential plc.

2.11 Sir Howard Davies in the AC’s Final Report said that “Heathrow is situated close to the M25, M4 and other major roads and the majority of emissions in the area are caused by road traffic unrelated to the airport”. The DfT apparently concur. The outside expert produced by Gatwick Airport suggested that the DEFRA study found that aircraft emit 55% of the total of toxic emissions. This has not been denied by the Government as far as I know. Yet the NPS omitted any mention of this and said that the aircraft contribution was just 14.3%. I suggest this discrepancy is at least significant and potentially fraudulent.

2.12 The truth is that aviation contributes substantially to toxic emissions and there are no proposals to reduce or control this. The latest Health Impact Analysis produced by the Government and published in October 2017 states that “LHR-NWR has been predicted to result in an increase in emissions from aircraft and road traffic associated with the airport. Due to the densely populated urban area surrounding Heathrow, poor air quality resulting from the LHR-ENR would affect several thousand local residents as well as sensitive receptors being affected by poorer air quality, resulting in a reversal of the baseline air quality improvements. The shortlisted scheme could potentially have major adverse health effects on selected ‘children and young people’ and ‘people with living in areas with poor health status’ and moderately adverse health impacts upon all other groups”. Yet the Government presses ahead with this poisonous project.

2.13 There was also an interesting study done when the volcano at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland erupted in April 2010 stopping air traffic worldwide for a week. This supports the statement of Gatwick. Kings College Environment Group conducted a study (A short-term intervention study – Impact of airport closure due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull on near-field air quality by David C. Carslaw, Martin L. Williams, Ben Barratt, King’s College London, Environmental Research Group, Franklin Wilkins Building, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH, UK), an abstract of which is:

“The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in April 2010 resulted in an unprecedented flight-ban at many European airports for many days. ……….. In this study we aim to quantify the impact the flight-ban had on concentrations of nitrogen oxides at measurement sites close to London Heathrow Airport………. We show that the airport closure resulted in an unambiguous effect on NOx and NO2 concentrations close to the airport, even though the ban only lasted six days.”

  1. Are other nations or cities taking more effective action that the UK can learn from?

3.1 Almost certainly yes; put simply, the Government has not taken enough account of the emissions from aircraft and has put far too much weight upon the Euro 6 pollution tests for landside vehicles, which occur in the lab and the “COPERT” computer modelling which takes diesel vehicles as emitting 2.8 times the limit prescribed by the Euro 6 rules.

3.2 The High Court in the ClientEarth case in 2016 found that:

3.2.1 The Government was not looking at a near enough point in time by failing to model concentrations of nitrogen dioxide at a date prior to 2020

3.2.2 By failing to take 2018 as a modelling date for central zones of London and other cities, the Secretary of State had failed to properly calculate the possible rate of reduction of noxious gases

3.2.3 The COPERT computer program calculations of real life emission of 2.8 times those emitted in the laboratory under Euro 6 were under recording.

Subsequent tests have concluded that real life emissions from Euro 6 compliant vehicles can by up to 20 times the Euro 6 limit. 3.3 The EAC have said in their Follow Up Report of February 2017 that:

“32. The UK has already breached legal NO2 limits in London for 2017. The High Court has ordered the Government to produce a new plan to tackle air pollution by July 2017, the conclusions of both of the Government’s air quality re-analysis studies are based on the previous, over-optimistic plan. The effectiveness of the Government’s new air quality plan will be integral to determining whether Heathrow expansion can be delivered within legal limits. We are concerned that the timing of the draft NPS consultation means the Government will be unable to carry out a comprehensive reanalysis of the air quality impacts, using the new air quality plan, before the consultation process is complete. The Government must publish such an assessment alongside the final National Policy Statement, it must work towards a scenario in which all road links affected by expansion have predicted concentrations below the limit value. Whilst the health impact assessment is a step in the right direction, the Government must carry out work to reduce the significant health impacts identified, before construction of the third runway begins”.

3.4 We do not see published air quality statistics in other EU cities that are anything like as bad as ours, nor do we see other governments being taken to court the number of times as ours and more importantly openly flouting court orders in the way that our government does. Nor do we see in other countries, governments supporting major infrastructure projects such as runway additions, in areas of dense population in contravention of health and impact assessments.

  1. Is there enough cross-government collaboration to set in place the right fiscal and policy incentives?

4.1 No; this must start with the DfT who have either deceived the public or just washed their hands of the whole matter regarding the expansion of Heathrow. The Airports Commission put forward the hopelessly inaccurate economic forecast that there would be £131 to £147 billion of economic benefit but this was a Gross Domestic Product figure of complete speculation over 60 years. The Government brought it down to £59.2 to £61.1 billion over 60 years but again that is a gross figure. The Government’s Net Present Value figure as shown in its “Further Review and Sensitivities Report” was a mere £0.2 to £6.1 billion over 60 years. Now in the latest Appraisal Report on costs and benefits, the proposed Heathrow expansion is forecast to have a disbenefit of up to £2.2bn over 60 years (see page 44 of the Updated Appraisal Report dated October 2017). In other words, over 60 years there will likely be net financial damage to the economy by this expansion. Even then, it ignores what might be taken away from the regions over the 60-year period because of the advised climate change limits that will be reached. It also forecasts the surface access costs to be under £4bn, whereas TfL have put them at up to £15bn. The DfT is giving its support to this outrageous increase in toxic emissions brought about by expansion of an airport in the south east for no financial benefit (save perhaps for the Heathrow shareholders), without any effective cap or even effective proposal for a cap.

4.2 Neither the Airports Commission nor the DfT gave anything like the appropriate consideration or expertise to health and air quality in their consideration of aviation expansion. The Department of Health and the Committee on Climate Change have been given a back seat if any seat at all. What should happen is that health, climate change and air quality should be given a central role in these proposals from the start. The Government should never have given any support for any aviation expansion unless they were certain that health, air quality, anti-climate change requirements and noise requirements could be satisfied. Quite simply the DfT have railroaded the other departments out of the discussion and the Government has stood by and done nothing.

4.3 A good example of the complete failure of the Government departments’ failure to communicate with each other is the Air Quality Plan brought out in December 2015.

4.4 This DEFRA report of December 2015 gives just 4 paragraphs to the effects of aviation and in one of the paragraphs it says:

“A large proportion of the NOx close to airports will be road related and larger airports may have strategies to minimise the number of vehicle journeys to and from the airport. More detail on this is available in the relevant zone plan”.

However, we have seen from above that this is not the case. The absence of communication between one government department and another is costing people’s lives.

4.5 A search on the Government’s web site shows that under “Consultations” and “Environment” the Department of Health is not involved in a single consultation. It is as if health simply does not matter, when it comes to environmental matters such as air quality.

4.6 DEFRA has stated in its Air Quality Report of the 20th April 2016 that:

“The harmful impacts of pollution from diesel in particular have been more definitively determined; in 2012 the World Health Organisation (WHO) unequivocally classified it a carcinogen. Health impacts of all air pollutants cost the UK economy some £15-20 billion a year. More importantly many thousands of people bear the human costs associated with damaged cardiac and respiratory systems and life-limiting diseases. Defra states that NO2 and particulates, contribute to the early deaths of more than 50,000 people in the UK annually; the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health put the figure at 40,000. The Colleges consider that neither UK government nor WHO guidelines set levels of air pollution that are “entirely safe for the whole population”. The bodies state that “when our patients are exposed to such a clear and avoidable cause of death, illness and disability, it is our duty as doctors to speak out.”

Notwithstanding the above, nothing is being done between departments and no comment has been made by the Department of Health. Why?

  1. How can those charged with delivering national plans at local level be best supported and challenged

5.1  The first thing that can happen is that the Government properly comply with the Court Order made against it.

5.2  The second thing that the Government can do is to abandon the plan to construct another runway at an airport in the south east of 
the Country.

5.3 The third thing is that the DfT, Department of Health and DEFRA can start talking to each other. Indeed, they should be made to talk to each other and the Department of Health and DEFRA given leading roles in any transport project. Full health assessments to include the effects upon health and climate change should be carried out at an early stage

5.4 The challenge to this can be done through the Joint Committees who hopefully can show the Government that this temporary dash to show that the UK “is open for business” post Brexit is complete folly for the people of the Nation and generations of people to come. The environment needs to come first and businesses to operate within the boundaries of responsible operation. Without boundaries specifically set, businesses are in danger of simply putting their paymasters, their shareholders, first without any proper regard for the long-term future of the Nation. We might have hoped that the Committee on Climate Change might have been able to affect some block on the irresponsibility, but they do not seem to have succeeded. The chairman of the CCC wrote to Greg Clark on the 22nd November 2016 stating that the Government’s emissions reduction plan was not going to deliver the required reductions. Then the 2017 Report to Parliament gave further concerns stating that “As evidence of climate change mounts, it is clear that current policies and adaptation actions – as described in the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) and elsewhere – will not be sufficient to counter the risks identified. Opportunities for modest, timely intervention to avoid long-term problems are being overlooked. As a result, climate change risks serious costs and in some respects irreversible damage to the country.”

5.4 There seems to be a determination, on the part of this Government at least, to put its head in the sand. Let us hope that a Joint Committee such as yours can bring some sense to the table

Teddington Action Group October 2017

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One Comment

  1. Christian Sanders
    22nd November 2017

    Fantastic, a thorough and systematic dismantling of the the case for Heathrow expansion…How this option is still being looked at is further evidence of the government’s utter disarray on the issue…We need a new Secretary of State for Transport A.S.A.P!!!

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