Wednesday 2 August 2017

GJA: Time to get angry about air pollution

From the Greener Jobs Alliance

The Greener Jobs Alliance gives a response to the Government Air Pollution Plan published in July 2017 and identifies how union and community activists can respond.

No one can say that the Government hasn’t been given a chance to get this right. We’ve had 3 court cases since 2011 all pointing out that the UK is in breach of its legal duty. In May 2017 a consultation document where the overwhelming response was that more needs to be done. Finally, on July 26th, we got the publication of ‘The UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide emissions’. LINK

Not surprisingly the ‘plan’ has been panned for failing to tackle this public health emergency. By not adequately addressing what should be done now, rather than in 23 years time, the Government has condemned thousands of people to a premature death. Advocating a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 is all well and good, but we needed a clear framework for the urgent implementation of clean air zones before 2020. Other shortcomings are highlighted in articles published following the launch of the report.

Five things you need to know about Gove's air pollution plans - Energy Desk

FoE Latest on Air Quality Plan

The government's air pollution plan is a beautiful smokescreen - Guardian Environment

We agree with Client Earth’s James Thornton’s observation that “it is little more than a shabby rewrite of the previous draft plans and is underwhelming and lacking in urgency. Having promised to make air quality a top priority, Michael Gove appears to have fallen at the first hurdle.”

What happened to the ‘polluter pays principle’?

The Greener Jobs Alliance called for specific duties to be placed on businesses. In our submission to the consultation, we pointed out that ‘There should be a legal duty on large businesses to carry out an emissions assessment. For example, a single employer may be responsible for generating thousands of vehicle movements every day by their staff and suppliers. They need to provide evidence that they have a transport policy in place to bring their emissions down within clear time limits’. 

  It is part of a system that fails to make oil, gas and coal companies face up to the wider social costs inflicted by their products. In fact, they end up getting massive subsidies. For example, earlier this year files were leaked showing £4.9 billion provided to fossil fuel firms in export finance by the government since 2010. LINK

Far from setting out any obligations on employers, the Government plan advocates the exact opposite. We are told in Para 47 that ‘The UK government is clear that any action to improve air quality must not be done at the expense of local businesses. So much for the principle of the polluter pays. Most air pollution is generated by work-related activities and yet the individual and the state pick up the bill. The need for a focus on employer’s responsibilities makes it even more important that trades unions start to get serious about air pollution. This is a workplace issue and must be treated as such.

Mandatory Clean Air Zones needed

Defra’s own evidence makes it clear that charge zones are the most effective way to tackle pollution. Yet local authorities don’t have to produce plans until December 2018. Implementation could take much longer and cash strapped councils will find it hard to comply. A campaign is needed urgently to turn CAZs that charge or ban dirty vehicles from a last resort to a first resort measure. They must be coordinated and funded by central government. This is a national public health crisis and requires a national response. Who should pay for this? Large businesses that fail to show effective measures for reducing their distribution/supply and travel emissions.

What should trade unions do?

Union members measure air pollution outside and inside the workplace
Currently, the UCU is the only union with national policy on tackling air pollution. Every union needs to draw up plans for involving their safety reps in making this an occupational health priority. Indoor and outdoor pollution are often linked. Toxic air kills whether a worker is exposed inside or outside a building. It is also an area that lends itself to cross union engagement through trades union councils linking up at a city and regional level with community activists. Unions also need to get involved in consultations over the introduction and implementation of Clean Air Zones. In addition to London, there are 28 other local authorities in England that are required to take local action in ’the shortest possible time’. These are referenced on Page 31 of the report. Unions need to check this list and prioritise how they will respond.


Unknown said...

I note that Brent Council held a workshop/consultation/discussion recently on how they were planning to tackle air pollution in Brent. I was not able to attend this workshop but hope the officers concern read my blog and ask the question when will they make Wembley Central a "Clean Air Zone" as someone who was born with COPD and have managed until recently without excessive medication I want to be first in the queue to witness them taking Air Quality Surveys on Wembley High Road, and making the polluters pay. 4 HGV Vehicles sat on Wembley High Road outside the former Brent House waiting to enter for a minimum of 30 minutes, engines on for the whole time, driver's sat in their cabs, expelling all the noxious fumes on to the High Road, I could not see anyone in Elizabeth House with windows open. With the wind in full swing today, particles of dust along with the fumes I envisaged if it had been checked this morning pollution would have been off the scale.

Unknown said...

I encourage everyone to read the Guardian Environment article it says everything in a nutshell.
The odds are stacked against me, I have no doubt I will not see 2040.
But hey my children and grandchildren will still be around, and I would like to see some action long before.
I quote from the Guardian Environment.
"A ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 is a great vision for the future but does nothing to address a public health emergency happening right now.
What a beautiful smokescreen.
A UK ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 conjures up the clean, green vision of an all-electric future!!!!!
NOT ANYTIME SOON in our neck of the woods, er sorry we losing trees, daily.