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Future for Local Air Quality Management


At the recent IAPSC conference in Birmingham (4th December) a Defra spokesperson made clear that local authorities should definitely continue to produce their annual review and assessment Progress Reports, and that any necessary air quality monitoring to inform these reports should continue. This announcement was in response to a question from Prof. Duncan Laxen, Managing Director of Air Quality Consultants Ltd. Prof. Laxen first commented that the preferred option in the recent Defra consultation might imply that local authorities could start to wind down their local air quality management (LAQM) duties, and then asked if this was the message Defra wanted to convey.

Sean O’Byrne of Defra responded by saying that the recent consultation on the future of LAQM had led to an unprecedented response from a wide range of organisations. He announced that Defra would not be dismantling the LAQM regime, which he said had been a “success story”. Defra would be expecting to see Progress Reports submitted next year, as usual, and it would be chasing authorities that did not submit. He also said that Defra expected local authorities to maintain monitoring to inform its LAQM activities.

Air Quality Consultants Ltd played a major role in establishing the LAQM regime in the UK. It has also helped many local authorities prepare their Review and Assessment reports and Action Plans.

More details about the discussions at the IAPSC conference will be provided in the January edition of the Air Quality Bulletin.  

Defra has now issued a summary of the consultation response (click here).  

Delegation of Experts to China


Prof. Duncan Laxen, Managing Director of Air Quality Consultants Ltd., recently joined a delegation of air quality experts to China, to share experiences of assessing and managing PM2.5 in the UK.  The visit was organised by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, with support from the British Embassy.  Events were held in Beijing, at which both the UK and Chinese experts gave presentations and exchanged views.  The main event was the ‘China-UK High Level Symposium on PM2.5 Pollution Control and Haze Prevention’, held at Tsinghua University.  This was followed with a meeting at the Counsellor’s Office of the State Council.  On the final day a Workshop was organised by the Beijing Municipal Research Institute for Environmental Protection.

Prof. Laxen presented the results of his recent work reviewing sources of PM2.5 in the UK.  He also outlined the approach required to understand and manage exposure to PM2.5, based on UK and European experience. 

In summarising his visit Prof. Laxen said: “It was clear that the Chinese are experiencing concentrations of PM2.5 around 10 times higher than those in the UK.  I was pleased to see that they have already developed a good understanding of the sources, which are remarkably similar to those controlling concentrations in the UK.  In particular, ‘secondary’ PM2.5, formed from the emissions of primary gases, plays as important a role in China as it does in the UK.”

“I was heartened that the Chinese are responding to growing calls from the public to improve air quality.  There is now a well established network of monitoring stations.  Alerts are given to the public on high pollution days and measures implemented to reduce emissions.  More importantly, stringent controls are being applied to emission sources, especially coal-fired power stations.”  

“I believe that by sharing our experience we can help give the Chinese the confidence to implement the most cost-effective measures to bring about real improvements over a short timescale.  The individuals we met discussed the challenges openly and showed a commitment to bringing about the necessary changes, so that the country can continue its rapid development in a more sustainable way.” 

Road Transport and Air Quality - Progress Questioned


The failure of motor vehicle manufacturers and regulators to deliver real reductions in emissions from diesel vehicles has caused a major challenge to meeting the EU limit values and UK objectives for nitrogen dioxide.

This is set out in an article published in Local Transport Today (Issue 633, 18-31 October 2013, available here) by Duncan Laxen and Stephen Moorcroft.  This failure has led to the UK Government being challenged in the courts and risking financial penalties. Another consequence is that over half the local authorities in the UK have declared Air Quality Management Areas - and this number has been increasing, not decreasing as was expected.  Local authorities have to develop Action Plans, but many of the measures that have been implemented have been hindered by the failure of new vehicles to deliver the expected reduction in emissions.  

A further issue is that climate change and local air quality agendas are not always in harmony – and policies to encourage the uptake of diesel vehicles have had negative impacts on local air quality.  Whilst the promotion of hybrid and electric vehicles should benefit both climate change and local air quality in the future, the expected growth in road transport may offset this, and it is likely that the road transport sector will remain the dominant source of pollution for many years to come.

This article was produced as part of the 20 year anniversary of Air Quality Consultants Ltd.


20th Anniversary Celebration at Royal Society


The 20th anniversary of Air Quality Consultants was recently celebrated at an evening event with clients and colleagues at the Royal Society in London. Speaking at the event, Professor Duncan Laxen, Managing Director and founder of Air Quality Consultants, said he was particularly proud that the Company had grown to 16 staff over this period, making it one of the largest air quality consultancy groups in the UK.

The event was marked by a keynote address by Jonathon Porritt (Forum for the Future), who set out the many challenges that face us in delivering air quality improvements in a sustainable world.

            Duncan Laxen            Jonathon Porritt            Stephen Moorcroft
         Managing Director

Signed copies of his new book ‘The World We Made’ (further details here) were raffled; the winners were: Roger Barrowcliffe of the Institute of Air Quality Management; Karen Colbourn of Ecological Planning & Research Ltd; Emily Connolly of Defra; David Harvey of ADM; Peter Henson of Bickerdike Allen; Lucy Parkin of Transport for London; Jack Pease of Air Quality Bulletin; Simon Possee of Iceni Projects; and Tom Zarebski of Cole Jarman.

Support to Australian Government


Air Quality Consultants Ltd has played a major role in evaluating options for an exposure-reduction framework for PM2.5 in Australia. The project was carried out by Pacific Environment Ltd and Air Quality Consultants Ltd, on behalf of the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency. Prof. Martin Williams from King’s College also participated in the study.

The involvement of Air Quality Consultants Ltd built on the experience of the company in helping develop the exposure-reduction approach to PM2.5 now adopted in the UK and EU, as well as the studies led by Air Quality Consultants Ltd of PM2.5 in the UK and in Scotland (links to Air Quality Consultants Ltd reports here).

An exposure-reduction framework for PM2.5 is justified, as there is no convincing threshold for health effects from exposure. Thus, even where air quality standards are not exceeded, there is a benefit in reducing concentrations even further, particularly in areas of high population density. The project involved a detailed review of existing emissions and exposure-reduction frameworks, and an analysis of Australian conditions including PM2.5 concentrations and source contributions, and the status of monitoring networks, emissions inventories and modelling capacities across the different states. An assessment of the positive and negative attributes of different options was then undertaken, and four potential options proposed.

The outcome of the study is to be presented to the 2013 Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand on 7-11 September.

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