Environmental Protection

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 8th September 2014.

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Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's policy position was on each of the three main priorities agreed at the European Environment and Health Ministerial Board in Vilnius, Lithuania on 1 July 2014.

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The membership of the European Environment and Health Ministerial Board (EHMB) comprises four environment Ministers, four health Ministers and four international institutions, appointed by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The UK is not a member.

The Government's policy position towards the eventual elimination of asbestos-related diseases is well established. The UK has a high rate of asbestos-related disease because of our past use of very high levels of asbestos. Consequently, our regulatory system for controlling occupational asbestos exposure is now one of the strictest in the EU. For example, we license and closely regulate contractors carrying out the highest-risk work with asbestos and we require more proactive management of asbestos in buildings and structures. Within Europe, the Government is focused on the need for active compliance with agreed EU measures and for any proposed new measures to be risk based, realistically achievable and the result of proper impact assessment. We remain determined to continue to reduce present exposures to minimise any future death toll.

The Government signed the Minamata Convention in October last year. We expect that the UK will be in a position to ratify it by 2018 when EU and probable consequent UK legislation is in place to provide for full implementation. A legislative proposal is expected from the European Commission early next year, which will then be considered by the UK along with other Member States.

We recognise the importance of action to address air pollution and will consider carefully the initiative for a resolution at the World Health Assembly next year.

The Government is committed to securing an ambitious, legally binding, global agreement with mitigation commitments for all by the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in Paris, to come into force by 2020. We recognise the important link between tackling climate change and health, and welcome EHMB’s priority to support COP 21.

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