Revised National Emission Ceilings Directive: Central London

My reference: Transport/EU/01

Mr Stavros Dimas
The Commissioner for the Environment DG
Environment Directorate-General
European Commission
B – 1049

By post and email to: [email protected]

10 May 2006

Dear Commissioner Dimas

Revised National Emission Ceilings Directive: Central London

I am writing on behalf of The Knightsbridge Association, which represents around 1,000 people and businesses in the area between Hyde Park Corner and Queen’s Gate in Central London, to seek your commitment to protecting local residents, local businesses and visitors (of which there are many) in the Knightsbridge area from high levels of air pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) when the Commission puts forward proposals for a revised National Emission Ceilings Directive in mid to late 2006.

Air pollution levels in the Knightsbridge area are regularly among the very worst in the United Kingdom.     Although  the  current  Air  Quality  Strategy  consultation published by Defra refers only to Marylebone Road exceeding the Strategy’s 1-hour objective in 2004, in fact Brompton Road in Knightsbridge also exceeded that objective in 2004 (by 14 times at 254 hours).  So far in 2006, air pollution at the Brompton Road monitoring site (with annual mean and exceedance levels of 105 μg/m3  and 192 hours respectively) has exceeded NO2  levels at Marylebone Road (with annual mean and exceedance levels of 100 μg/m3  and 177 hours respectively). This data is available at

We have no recent data for PM10  and other particulates in this area since the local Pollution Monitoring Station was closed in November 2000 (after recording a peak of 116μg/m3  of PM10 on 5 October 2000 and exceedances of the 50 μg/m3  objective of 35 days per annum on 14 days in less than six months of 2000).

Given the seriousness of the air pollution problem in this area, please confirm on behalf of the European Commission that it is committed (as a minimum) to:

  1. maintaining the current 2010 European Union (EU) legal limits on annual mean and exceedance levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (whether currently through PM10 measures or in future through new PM2.5 measures) and ensuring their full enforcement in areas where there are significant residential, business and/or visitor populations potentially exposed to the emissions for extended periods;
  2. requiring any derogations from EU legal limits for air quality to be approved by the European Commission at its sole discretion; and
  3. rejecting any requests for derogations from current or future EU legal limits on NO2, PM10  or PM2.5  in areas where there are significant residential, business and/or visitor populations potentially exposed to the emissions for extended periods.

Separately, it would be positive if the Environment Directorate-General would issue guidance to Member States to the effect that efforts by them and/or local authorities to reduce air pollution by means that, in themselves, or, in total, cannot achieve the EU legal limits for air pollution will never be considered as having made “all reasonable efforts” to achieve those limits e.g. the London Low Emission Zone may only reduce air pollution by say “15%” when exceedance levels are multiples currently of the EU legal limits for air pollution.

EU legal requirements that bind all Member States on air quality limits (when backed up by tough enforcement action) may represent the best chance for residents, businesses and visitors in the Knightsbridge area to achieve reductions in the current, unacceptable, levels of air pollution.

I attach some selected recent relevant comments in an Appendix for your information.

I have copied the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Mayor of London and local Authority Leaders Sir Simon Milton and Councillor Merrick Cockell for their information.    I have copied other interested parties.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,



Simon Birkett
Transport and Environment Committee


Cc:         Mogens Peter Carl, Director General
David  Grant  Lawrence,  Env.  2  Legislation  and  other  Inter-Institutional activities
Pia Bucella, Director, Directorate A: Communication, Legal Affairs & Civil Protection
Jos Delbeke, Director, Directorate C: Climate Change and Air
Rt. Hon. Douglas Alexander MP, Secretary of State, Department for Transport
Rt.  Hon.  David  Miliband  MP,  Secretary  of  State,  Department  for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Mr Ken Livingstone, The Mayor of London
Councillor Sir Simon Milton, The Leader of the Council, City of Westminster
Councillor Merrick Cockell, Leader of the Council, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, Chairman of The Transport Committee
Mark Field MP
Councillor Frances Blois
Councillor Tony Devenish
Councillor Philippa Roe
Councillor Dr Ian Hanham
Councillor Margot James
Councillor Mrs Shireen Ritchie
Charles Elphicke
Martin Low, Director of Transportation
Paul  Morse,  Interim  Executive  Director  for  Transport,  Environment  and Leisure Services
London Low Emission Zone Consultation Team


The requirement to meet EU legal limits for air quality in 2010

The European Union:  New proposal for NECD is expected in mid to late 2006

Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution – Council Conclusions adopted in paragraph 10 on 15 March 2006

“Notes with satisfaction that the Commission will come forward, as soon as possible with a legislative proposal to revise the national emission ceiling Directive … taking into account the experiences and difficulties faced by Member States during the implementation of that Directive, including the need for measures at Community level to enable Member States to respect the national emission ceilings.”

Published Questions and Answers on the Thematic Strategy on air pollution published on 21 September 2005

“Q: Are any changes foreseen to the implementation of the air quality legislation?

A: … The proposal foresees that where Member States have taken all reasonable measures to achieve compliance but have been unable to achieve it in specific areas, they  could  be  allowed  extra  time  to  reach  compliance  provided  that  a  plan  is developed to ensure compliance by the later date.”

Summary of the Impact Assessment of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and the Directive on “Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe” published on 21 September 2005 on Page 19

“Based on the advice received from the scientific community … the Commission is not proposing to revise the current limit and target values for air pollutants set by European air quality legislation.    However, the Commission proposes to repeal the indicative limit for PM10  for 2010 and – on the basis of scientific advice and health evidence – to start regulating fine particulate matter below 2.5 microns (“PM2.5”) differently.”

Transport for London:  to be presented to the Mayor for a decision in Summer 2006

Transport and Air Quality Strategy Revisions: London Low Emission Zone (“LEZ”). Supplementary Information.   Public and Stakeholder Consultation published on 30 January 2006 in paragraph 2.2.9 on page 4

“The proposed Directive does introduce scope for deferring achievement of EU limit values for NO2, PM10 and potentially the new cap for PM2.5.  However, a deferment would be subject to Commission approval and it would need to be demonstrated that the Member State concerned had made every effort to achieve the relevant limit or concentration cap.  The LEZ would have a beneficial impact in reducing emissions of PM2.5, as road traffic is an even larger source of PM2.5 that PM10.  The proposed LEZ, therefore, would be a means to demonstrate that the UK and London in particular is making every effort to achieve the new limit values or concentration caps for PM10 and NO2.”

Defra:  For responses by 11 July 2006

The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  A consultation document on options for further improvements in air quality Volume 1 published on 5 April 2006:

in paragraph 27 starting on page 27

“…  to postpone the current [NO2] objectives from end 2005 to say end 2010 may well undermine the credibility of the Local Air Quality Management system, particularly with local residents, and could delay the expected rate of improvement from local measures.”

in paragraph 28 on page 34

“One site, London Marylebone Road, exceeded the Strategy’s 1–hour [NO2] objective in 2004.”

in paragraph 26 on page 104

“The European Union has not proposed a new objective for NO2 and it recognises the difficulty in meeting limit values in all areas by proposing a justified derogation.”

in paragraph 35 on page 106

“The UK Government and the devolved administrations therefore propose to retain the  current  2004  daily  and  annual  PM10   objectives  and  to  continue  to  work  to eliminate all current exceedances as soon as possible.”

in paragraph 160 on page 132

“The main proposal for changes to the current policy framework in the review of the Air Quality Strategy is the new “exposure reduction” approach for setting objectives for particulate matter.  One of the options for new objectives in this review is to abandon existing long term objectives for PM10  for 2010 and substitute them with a much more cost effective policy framework to deliver improved public health.  This is because the existing policy framework, if followed to its logical conclusion could lead to potentially very high financial and social costs for businesses and society at large.

… This is clearly an important change removing extremely challenging objectives (which could not be achieved in a cost effective way) and substituting them with new objectives able to deliver increased health improvements at lower costs to society at large, including businesses.”

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