Discussing government failure in controlling air pollution – Radio 4 – 2 Feb 17










This is the consequence of complete failure by the government to tackle a problem that it has known about for a long time. It is now in breach of our own laws about controlling air pollution, and it has known about that and it has done nothing, even though Client Earth succeeded in a high court action for them to come up with a plan.

Compulsory purchase addresses the wrong end of the problem. You can’t blame the people and make the people pay for a problem that is a failure of government. I do understand the frustrations, not just in Cornwall, it’s in Birmingham, it’s in London, you have got councils that have been dumped with the problem by failure of government to take an action that it knows it should take.

The local councils are trying really hard to deal with the problem where they can, and where they can make a difference at the margin, lots of councils are doing that. The problem is now getting to a state where you have got to spend millions of pounds on a bypass, you are getting beyond what local councils can really be expected to do. With a compulsory purchasing order to move people away from the pollution, you are going beyond what local councils can do. So there are lots of local councils who should be applauded for what they are doing, but they can’t make up for the failures of central government.

The motor industry cheated on the air quality test standards, so you can’t go on blaming the people for a problem that government really does need to address. We have the technologies to produce vehicles, and all the mobility that people want, without killing them, and incidentally adding to the burden on the health service. We have the technology to do that, but government had to set a lead. It is failing to do that. On diesels, we could be shifting them over to liquid petroleum gas, to get rid of that particular problem.



About tomburke

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, and an Environmental Policy Adviser (part time) to Rio Tinto plc. He is a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever and a Trustee of the Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool.
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