In 2010 350 deaths – 5.5 per cent of all deaths – in Leeds, were linked to air pollution.
In spring of 2014 the World Health Organisation named Leeds as one of 9 UK urban areas where air pollution levels were dangerously high.
Yet last week EU plans emerged to scrap vital policy packages aimed at promoting clean air and recycling.
Scrapping them would have important consequences – for health, for the environment, but also for the longer-term green economy which we should all be backing.
Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister, Maria Eagle, has deplored the move – and called on the Coalition to support those working against it. Labour MEPs are continuing to work to keep these packages.
The Clean Air and Circular Economy packages aim to improve resource efficiency and air quality in Europe. Scrapping them would have a ‘hugely detrimental effect’, as Friends of the Earth put it.
‘ The Commission’s own estimates suggest that the proposed revised Clean Air package would prevent as many as 58,000 premature deaths from air pollution each year by 2030, and health benefits alone would save society €40-140 billion in external costs. The proposal would add the equivalent of around 100 000 additional jobs due to increased productivity and competitiveness because of fewer workdays lost, and it is estimated to have a positive net impact on economic growth.
The Commission have also estimated that full implementation of the Circular Economy package would create over 580,000 jobs, and generate net savings of €600bn (£475bn). At the same time, it would make business more competitive and reduce demand for and dependency on costly scarce resources from outside the continent.
There is a very broad consensus in Europe and in the UK amongst industry groups and associations, major companies, NGOs and municipalities that the Circular Economy package offers huge potential for green job creation, resource security, environmental protection and economic growth. ‘
There was a swift response to this leaked news – including from member states like Germany and France, and from key business leaders and environmental organisations.
Our LibDem/Tory Coalition was not part of this.
Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary has written to Liz Truss urging her to issue a clear statement of support for these European Commission packages to promote clear air and recycling:
I am writing to you in regards to the 2015 Commission work programme and the withdrawal of the air quality and circular economy packages.
Air pollution is a serious public health issue facing our towns and cities, tens of thousands of lives are lost each year. It is a problem that requires urgent Government action and continued support with guidance from the European Commission. Similarly the need to increase recycling rates and boost jobs and growth in the UK are best served by support at the European level.
I am therefore deeply concerned that the UK Government has been silent whilst the European Commission is considering whether to end two environmental packages that would encourage both cleaner air and support for the circular economy.
Last week key business stakeholders, leading environmental charities and eleven EU Member State Ministers and European Parliament Group Leaders wrote to the President and Vice-President of the European Commission to support the ‘Circular economy package’ and ‘Air Quality package’. I would like to understand why you chose not to sign the letter.’
Maria Eagle took the opportunity to make clear Labour’s firm support for these packages
‘I want to reaffirm the Labour Party’s support for both the Air Quality and the Circular Economy packages. I urge you to issue a clear statement in support of these two EU packages that not only offer vital protection to the people and the environment, but provide long-term benefits to the UK economy.’
So David Cameron was to lead the ‘Greenest Government ever’? Yet the deregulation agenda, which this LibDem/Tory right-wing Coalition has enthusiastically pursued, chimes with such attempts to roll back EU requirements. Last year the Coalition’s submission on recycling opposed ambitious new targets – citing precisely a need to limit regulation of industry among its reasons.
Meanwhile Labour MEPs are fighting to keep Air Pollution and the Circular Economy in the Commission Work Programme.
Here in the UK Maria Eagle and Sadiq Khan announced in September that a future Labour Government would introduce Low Emission Zones to give local authorities the ability to do more to encourage low-pollution vehicles.
Eagle said that as part of Miliband’s devolution agenda this would “devolve the power, not just the responsibility, and support local authorities that want to tackle this public health crisis.”
If you want a Green Government here in Britain in 2015, you’d be wise to vote Labour.
And if you want to help Alex Sobel win here in Leeds NW, and to help bring about a Green Labour Government, why not sign up here