Air Pollution

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 3rd April 2017.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Chesterton Lord Hunt of Chesterton Labour

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by the Prime Minister on 8 March 2017 (HC Deb, col 807), what data they have collected that shows an improvement in air quality in recent years.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK's National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) is compiled annually to report total emissions by pollutant and source sector in a systematic way, and to facilitate compliance with EU emission ceilings and targets.

An overview of this information and the trends in air pollution since 1970 is publicly available in the latest National Statistics publication ‘Air Pollutants in the UK, 1970 to 2015’, which was published on 21 December 2016.

Emissions data demonstrate a long term decrease in the emissions of all of the main air pollutants between 1970 and 2015. Emissions of:

  • sulphur dioxide (SO2) reduced by 96%;

  • nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 69%;

  • non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) by 66%;

  • particulate matter: PM10 by 73% and PM2.5 by 76%.

In addition, ammonia (NH3) emissions from agriculture decreased by 19% between 1990 and 2015.

Furthermore, the emissions inventory indicates that levels of all these pollutants continued to decrease in 2015, with the exception of ammonia and PM2.5. The most prominent examples of this are:

  • Emissions of sulphur dioxide further decreased by 23% from 2015 compared to 2014, dropping to the lowest level so far since 1970.
  • Emissions of nitrogen oxides decreased in 2015 compared to 2014 by 4.0%, dropping to the lowest level so far since 1970.

The trajectories of emissions levels for each of the key pollutants for the UK, in each year since 1970, based on the data that are available, are set out in the attached graph.

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