Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:41 pm on 22nd January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:41 pm, 22nd January 2018

My Lords, I am pleased to introduce these regulations. Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Air quality overall has improved significantly in recent decades. Emissions have decreased across each of the five key air pollutants—sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. We need to ensure that these improvements continue through concerted action by government and local authorities in collaboration with others.

In some parts of our country there are unacceptable levels of air pollution. The Government are committed to tackling this and improving air quality, and are working to make sure that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide come within statutory limits. We are also looking to reduce total emissions of air pollution through legally binding targets for 2020 and 2030. On a local level, authorities across the country are developing local plans to tackle air pollution. The measures they bring forward—including, potentially, clean air zones—will include encouraging the replacement of old, polluting vehicles with modern, cleaner technologies. It is also important that we look to encourage the replacement of the most polluting forms of energy production.

The regulations before your Lordships relate to medium combustion plants and generators. These are a largely unregulated, significant source of emissions of air pollutants. For example, emissions of nitrogen oxides from diesel generators are on average more than six times higher than emissions from gas engines.

These regulations will implement the medium combustion plant directive, in adherence to our membership of the EU. Emissions from small-scale, highly polluting generators have also caused concern. The Government are looking to take robust action to tackle this source of emissions by introducing further domestic measures that impose additional emission controls on these generators.

These regulations are highlighted in the 25-year environment plan, launched earlier this month. They will encourage a shift to cleaner technologies and will assist in meeting the requirements of the ambient air quality directive and the revised national emission ceilings directive. Subject to your Lordships’ consent, they will make a valuable contribution to improving air quality, thereby protecting human health and the environment.

Emissions from plants over 50 thermal megawatts are already regulated under the industrial emissions directive. These regulations bring into scope medium combustion plants, which are in the one to 50 thermal megawatt range and are used to generate heat for large buildings such as offices, hotels, hospitals and prisons. They are also used in industrial processes, as well as for power generation. Implementing the medium combustion plant directive, commonly referred to as the MCPD, will help to reduce air pollution by introducing emission controls for these combustion plants.

As well as transposing the requirements of the MCPD, these regulations will impose new domestic requirements on the operators of low-cost, small-scale flexible power generators. There has been a rapid growth in the use of this type of generator in this country in the last few years. The recent growth of mainly diesel generators is a cause for concern. These generators emit high levels of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides compared to other medium combustion plants, and they are not currently subject to emission controls. This growth has a negative impact on local air quality as well as on our ability to meet future emission reduction targets on a national scale.

The MCPD requirements are not sufficient in themselves to tackle emissions from the increased use of these generators. The proposed regulations will subject generators to permitting and a nitrogen oxides emission limit. As a result, the regulations will ensure that diesel generators reduce their emissions to the same level as gas generators.

These regulations will provide an estimated 43% of the sulphur dioxide emissions reduction, 9% of the reduction for particulate matter and 22% of the nitrogen oxides emissions reduction needed to meet our 2030 targets. They are supported by organisations including the British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians. The regulations will encourage the use of cleaner plants and generators and will require those which pollute more to have technology fitted to bring their emissions within the specified limits.

Clean air is one of the most basic requirements of a healthy environment for us all to live, work, and bring up families. Clearly there is a strong case for action and we have a clear ambition and policy agenda to achieve this. These regulations will make a real impact and are a further demonstration of our commitment to improve air quality in this country. I beg to move.