The Institute of Air Quality Management (IAQM) is disappointed that the Government has not met the High Court’s deadline to publish the consultation draft of its 2017 Air Quality Plan.
In November, after a case was brought by the environmental law charity ClientEarth, the High Court ruled that the Government’s 2015 Air Quality Plan did not comply with the requirements of EU air quality regulations. The Court ordered the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to publish a draft modified Air Quality Plan (and associated technical information) that complies with these requirements by 4pm today (Monday 24th April 2017).
The IAQM is disappointed that the Government has not met this deadline, and is again delaying action to tackle air pollution which is damaging public health in the UK’s towns and cities. The Government is now proposing to publish its draft plan after the General Election, on 30th June. Given the requirement, emphasised by Mr Justice Garnham when ruling on the case, for the Government to bring the UK into compliance with the law “as soon as possible”, this further delay is unacceptable.
Dr Claire Holman, Chair of the IAQM said:
“The Government has known about this deadline for months and if they were serious about protecting public health they would have either published the plan before the election announcement, or delayed the announcement”.
Questions will now inevitably be raised about whether this is a genuine delay, or whether this decision was made on political grounds because the suggested measures – for example, banning diesel cars in city centres – would be electorally unpopular.
Whatever the outcome of the election on the 8th June, we hope the modified Air Quality Plan will address this public health crisis with the ambition and urgency required. The IAQM looks forward to contributing to the consultation on these plans in due course.
Though experts have been aware of the issue for many years, it is only in recent years that the majority of the media and public have become aware of the severity of the air quality crisis in many of Britain’s towns and cities. But is it too little too late? The articles in this issue of the environmental SCIENTIST discuss controversial topics around air quality management and measurement and suggest ways in which both government and individuals can strive to tackle this problem.
Guest edited by Dr Claire Holman, Chair of the IAQM, and with an editorial contributed by Matthew Pennycook MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, this issue includes a range of articles from scientists and practitioners.
- Tackling air pollution: We need to get our Act together – Matthew Pennycook
- Improving air quality: Are vehicle emission limits all smoke and mirrors? – Claire Holman
- Electric vehicles – are we nearly there yet? – Roger Barrowcliffe
- Air pollution: putting people at the heart of the issues – Tim Chatterton
- Fact or fiction: The story of measuring NOx emissions from modern diesel vehicles – Ben Marner
- Enhancing Local Air Quality Management in Wales to maximise public health integration, collaboration and impact – Huw Brunt, James Longhurst, Gabriel Scally and Enda Haynes
- Health and education versus economic development – are our children suffering in the crossfire? – Graham Harker
- Air quality drives down motorway speed limit – Fiona Prismall
- Controlling non-road mobile machinery emissions in London – Daniel Marsh
- Will backup generators be the next ‘Dieselgate’ for the UK? – Kieran Laxen
- A new Clean Air Act – what do we want? – Sarah Legge
The publication is available to IAQM and IES members online, and hard copies will be distributed soon.
If you are fairly new to air quality, and by that, I mean with less than four or five years’ experience, this column is for you.
We have started an Early Careers Group to help our Associates and less experienced Members develop their skills, and to meet others in the same position. The idea is that the group is organised and run by our members. The first event is scheduled to take place on Thursday 8th June in London, and we have plans to take it on tour to other parts of the country.
I am definitively not in the early career group, having worked in air quality management since 1976 (when I started my PhD on tropospheric ozone). But what I have learnt over the past 40 years is the value of my network. We cannot know all the answers to every problem we come across as air quality practitioners, and Google cannot always provide the answers.
I have drawn on expertise from my network on a number of occasions, and it has proved invaluable. I remember one time needing to assess the impact of a major road on air quality at a new development some 150m below the road (it was in a former quarry). I discussed the issue with Professor Bernard Fisher, my predecessor-but-one as chair of IAQM, and together we came up with a viable solution. I would have struggled without his help, having just joined an engineering practice that worked extensively on land development projects. It was my first major project of this type; having never previously undertaken land development work. These days, most of our members work on such projects, but my early career was different, working on policy at the interface between science and regulation.
Air quality managers in consultancies are generally good at teaching their staff how to undertake an air quality assessment. I suspect most are not so good at teaching their staff the wider issues that enable them to become good consultants. Our guidance requires the use of professional judgement, as it is impossible to cover all our profession’s assessment needs. Much of the time it is easy to make a professional judgement, but there will be projects where this is very difficult. It takes time to development the skills to make good judgements, especially when dealing with an issue you have not come across before.
This is why it is important that you attend as many IAQM and other events as you can, because talking to colleagues from other organisations, developing your network, listening to presentations, and asking questions, will make you a better air quality practitioner. You will broaden your knowledge, and over time develop the ability to make robust and defensible judgements.
A Member once told me that IAQM’s Routes to Clean Air Conference is not relevant to Members’ day-to-day work. I disagree. Members need to understand the wider air quality arena; modelling is just one part of our work, and is generally the easy bit. Understanding the causes of poor air quality, the limitations of new monitoring techniques, the evidence of real world emissions from vehicles, trends in air quality, and the effectiveness of measures to improve urban air quality have all been covered at our recent events. Having a broad knowledge is essential if you are going to become an air quality practitioner able to exercise your judgement in a professional manner. The importance of having a broad knowledge becomes clear when you are dealing with the public, and if you become an expert witness at planning inquiries/hearings or for litigation.
As a member of IAQM you are required to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and record it, ideally using the IES tool. The IAQM have published guidance (pdf) on what IAQM members need to evidence in their CPD submissions.
Each year the IAQM randomly audit 5% of members CPD records (in addition to the 10% IES audit). We rely on our members being truthful and realistic. If your CPD record shows that you are spending a very significant amount mentoring staff, then it is clear that this is a core part of your job and therefore does not count as CPD. Recording that you spend an hour a week reading a short internet news bulletin also seems excessive. These are two real examples from our last audit. Not only should you be accurate, but it is also good practice to update your record as soon as possible after you have attended an event, to enable you to realistically complete the ‘reflections’ section. The IES published an article on how this should be recorded last year.
The IAQM is determined to help individuals build fulfilling and successful careers in the air quality field. Sign up to the first event today to help build your network, skills and CPD record.
Dr Claire Holman, IAQM Chair
As part of a collaboration between The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE), the UK Health Forum and Imperial College London are working on a research project to test the long-term epidemiological impacts of air pollution in England, at both local and national levels.
This project aims to model different circumstances where air pollution levels are altered or maintained, estimating the costs on the NHS and forecasting health changes in the population. One of the planned outputs of the project is a tool for local authorities to use to test the impact of different air pollutants (NO2, O3, PM2.5) on chronic disease in local areas.
The teams involved have designed a survey to gather information from potential users so as to refine the tool’s design. Any feedback would be much appreciated.