Skip to main content

Research Repository

See what's under the surface

Policy disconnect: A critical review of UK air quality policy in relation to EU and LAQM responsibilities over the last 20 years

Barnes, J. H.; Hayes, Enda T; Chatterton, Tim; Longhurst, James


Profile Image

Enda Hayes
Professor in Air Quality and Carbon Management


© 2018 Elsevier Ltd This paper critically reviews United Kingdom (UK) air quality policy in relation to European and Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) responsibilities over the last 20 years. The arguments articulated in this paper highlight the gulf between national and local air quality management in the UK, including differences in legislation, legal responsibilities, scales of operation, monitoring and modelling requirements, exceedence reporting and action planning. It is argued that local authorities cannot be held responsible for the UK's failure to achieve the European Union (EU) nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limit values due to fundamental differences between local government responsibilities under LAQM and the UK compliance assessment reporting to the EU. Furthermore, unambitious and counterproductive national policies and the failure of EU light-duty vehicle type approval tests and Euro standards to reduce real-world emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the main reasons for continued NO2 limit value exceedences. This failure of EU and national air quality policies has effectively undermined local authority action to improve local air quality, resulting in delays in achieving the standards, wasted resources at local and national levels, and, ultimately, unnecessary loss of life and increased morbidity in the UK population. This paper concludes that the current emphasis that the UK government is placing on implementation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) to achieve the Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) (AAQD), and avoid substantial fines imposed by the European Court of Justice (CJEU), is flawed. Based on the arguments presented in this paper, a series of recommendations is proposed for the European Union, the UK government, devolved administrations and local authorities.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Journal Environmental Science and Policy
Print ISSN 1462-9011
Electronic ISSN 1873-6416
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 85
Pages 28-39
APA6 Citation Barnes, J. H., Hayes, E. T., Chatterton, T., & Longhurst, J. (2018). Policy disconnect: A critical review of UK air quality policy in relation to EU and LAQM responsibilities over the last 20 years. Environmental Science and Policy, 85, 28-39.
Keywords air quality policy, NO2, traffic pollution, public health, LAQM, EU limit values
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations