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LES and Local Air Quality Management

September 2010

LAQM ReportThe LES Partnership has published a discussion paper on the future of Local Air Quality Management (LAQM). It comes in response to a report for Defra, which reviewed the existing LAQM regime, and is intended to contribute to the wider debate on the future of LAQM.

We argue for recognition of the key role that emissions-based metrics could play at a local level in bridging the gap between concentration-based objectives and the actions required to meet them. Greater emphasis on emissions would provide a practical mechanism for LAQM to deliver significant contributions to health and environmental protection, thereby maintaining its importance and relevance within the wider context of UK air quality management.

We make the following recommendations:

  • Local Authorities have a major role to play in driving down emissions and improving air quality in their local area. The biggest opportunities for local action come from integrated cross-disciplinary working, with air quality practitioners adopting a facilitating/brokering role across authorities and with local stakeholders.
  • The statutory duty placed on local authorities by the LAQM framework (’to work towards compliance with air quality objectives’) is toothless and ineffective. This driver needs strengthening by: (a) aligning the outcome metric more directly to what local authorities can influence, and (b) by requiring ‘achievement of’ rather than ‘progress towards’ the agreed metric. It is likely that one or more emission based metrics can fulfil this role. This approach would enable logical links to existing national indicators for air quality and climate change, and also the new exposure reduction regime.
  • LAQM faces significant communication barriers with a range of target groups including the public, senior officers/politicians and spatial/transport planners. We need to recognise the intrinsic complexity of the present LAQM framework and consider how to engage with these target groups on their terms and in their language, rather than demanding they learn the technical language of LAQM. The LES Partnership has demonstrated that argumentation based more on emission reduction rather than concentrations is more intuitive, more engaging and above all delivers results.
  • Nowhere are the benefits of emission based thinking stronger than in relation to linking up with climate change. It is time to consider a more fundamental realignment of LAQM to reflect the now dominant emission based climate change agenda.
  • Planning based Low Emission Strategies provide one of the most important opportunities for concerted local action. They provide pragmatic solutions and help to avoid protracted adversarial planning battles. Good progress in being made on the ground, however more could be done by central government to support and encourage wider and more effective adoption nationwide.
  • Overall, emission based thinking and low emission initiatives (be they planning based, transport plan based, procurement strategies or area wide plans) have great potential to drive local action on air quality (and climate change). Options for explicitly recognising this shift through amendment or extension of the LAQM regime should be identified and actively explored.

Our paper is available to download here

The original review report is available on Defra’s website

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