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South East Green MEP In Talks With European Commissioner Over Heathrow And Air Quality

South East Green MEP In Talks With European Commissioner Over Heathrow And Air Quality

14 July 2008 - Green MEP for the South East Caroline Lucas has met with the European Commissioner for the Environment to discuss the controversial expansion of Heathrow airport, and the UK government’s failure to meet EU air quality targets.

According to DEFRA, the UK will need to apply for a derogation – a temporary exemption – on the targets set under the EC Air Quality Directive to reduce pollution because it is unlikely to meet them. Even without the proposed expansion of Heathrow, air pollution in the residential areas around Heathrow currently exceeds the average annual limit for nitrogen dioxide prescribed in the Directive, and is therefore highly unlikely to be able to meet the new limit value of 40 micrograms per cubic metre by 2010 if additional aircraft movements are permitted.

In conversation with Dr Lucas and the 2M Group, a body of local councillors representing 4.5 million people in the affected areas surrounding Heathrow, Commissioner Stavros Dimas acknowledged that improving air quality is a crucial aim of the European Union’s environmental policy.

Commissioner Dimas expressed concern at suggestions that the UK government is planning to further increase capacity at the airport, in anticipation of receiving a derogation. He agreed to inform the MEP if and when the UK government submits its application for derogation, to allow for a transparent process, and to give Euro-MPs a chance to voice their concerns.

Dr Lucas commented: "The Air Quality Directive targets already allow for a certain degree of flexibility, but there is no way that the UK should be entering into a development – in this case, a 12.5% increase in the capacity of the existing runways - that will further increase NO2 and PM10 levels when it is already struggling to bring these in line with EU standards.

"It is encouraging that Commissioner Dimas agrees that a UK request for derogation on the Directive would go against the spirit of the targets set by the EU to achieve cleaner air. We need clearer skies and a government which takes its environmental responsibilities seriously by adhering to EU legislation."

From left: Dr Caroline Lucas MEP (Green - South East), Sarah Ludford MEP (Liberal - London), Cllr Edward Lister (Wandsworth Council), Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, Cllr Barbara Reid (Hounslow Council), Cllr Ray Puddifoot (Hillingdon Council)