The EFRA Committee, which scrutinises the administration, spending and policy of Defra, has launched an inquiry into air quality, following the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent national lockdown.
The Committee cites evidence of a link between air quality and COVID-19 impacts as well as concerns about less public transport use leading to more road traffic pollution as reasons for looking again at Defra’s air quality work.
Specifically, the committee will be revisiting its own Improving Air Quality report and looking at whether the government’s Clean Air Strategy and Environment Bill will deliver a ‘step change’ in how the UK tackles air pollution.
The Clean Air Strategy, published in January 2019, promises further regulation to reduce ammonia emissions from agriculture, targeting specific emissions-reducing practices, minimising pollution from fertiliser use, and the extension of environmental permitting to dairy and intensive beef farms by 2025.
The NFU believes the regulatory approach taken in the Clean Air Strategy represents a departure from the voluntary approach that has proven so effective at reducing ammonia emissions in recent years.
Farmers can help improve air quality by further reducing ammonia emissions, but the Government must work with the industry to deliver a holistic strategy that gathers better data, removes barriers to change, and finds alternatives to regulation.
In the meantime, the industry stands ready to help Defra minimise the impact of any new regulation on farm businesses and ensure it delivers the right outcomes.
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