09/07/2019

Ministers Express Concerns Over EPA Air Pollution Report

Ministers have expressed their concerns about the findings of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, which suggest areas around certain heavily trafficked roads in Dublin city may have higher levels of air pollution than previously indicated.

These higher levels are due primarily to traffic and some locations are at risk of exceeding the statutory EU limit for the pollutant Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an air pollutant associated with urban areas, strongly linked with traffic emissions and which is known to have detrimental impacts on human health. Diesel vehicles have historically far higher nitrogen dioxide emissions than other combustion engines, especially for older vehicles.

The EPA report underlines the importance of implementing the actions contained in the Climate Action Plan, including:

• 180,000 electric vehicles on our roads by 2025

• Ensure the EV charging network underpins public confidence

• Create an early public procurement framework for EVs

• Accelerate steps to decarbonise the public transport fleet

• Establishing a Cycling Project Office and rolling out 200km of new cycle lanes in Dublin

• A new Park and Ride Startegy to be developed

• Develop a regulatory framework on low emission zones and parking pricing policies, and provide local authorities with the power to restrict access to certain parts of a city or a town to zero emission vehicles only

• No new fossil fuel vehicles sold from 2030.

The EPA report also confirms the importance of action already underway to disincentivise diesel car purchasing (1% VRT surcharge), support the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), additionally incentivise taxis to switch to EVs and invest in cleaner, greener buses.

The first national Clean Air Strategy, to be published later this year, will also address problems arising in relation to harmful emissions from a range of sources, including the transport sector.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, said: "These findings are very concerning and underline the need to implement the Climate Action Plan. Our Plan includes a number of actions which will have a significant impact on reducing emissions and improving air quality. Actions include the development of a regulatory framework for low emission zones and providing local authorities with the power to restrict access to certain parts of a city or a town to zero emission vehicles only. We are also committed to reaching 180,000 electric and hybrid vehicles on our roads by 2025 and nearly 1million by 2030. Reaching 70% renewable electricity and electrifying our private and public transport fleets will have a huge impact on air quality in our towns and cities. The National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme, which my Department is funding, will provide greater access to air quality information and has allowed the EPA to identify suitable sites for additional air monitoring stations in Dublin.

"We will now convene the relevant bodies to ensure we take immediate action on this matter and improve the air quality in Dublin."

Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism Shane Ross, added: "The findings of this EPA Report and the potential health concerns arising for those living and working along these routes are a matter of grave concern. We need to act and reduce NO2 emissions in urban areas. Older diesel vehicles are the key perpetrators in terms of NO2 emissions. I am glad to report that we are already investing in new, cleaner and greener buses, electrifying Dublin commuter rail and providing generous incentives for taxis to make the switch to electric. We must also convince urban dwellers to switch from diesel cars to the cleaner electric and hybrid alternatives. Just as we have done with the Low Emissions Vehicles Taskforce, my Department and I will work closely with Minister Bruton and his Department, and Minister Donohue and his Departments, and Dublin City Council and the EPA to map out new measures that will be necessary. This will, of course, require widespread support to be effective and I am committed to ensuring that the necessary broad consultations will take place."

The Ministers will now bring the relevant bodies together – both the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Department of Transport, Sport and Tourism, the four Dublin local Authorities and the EPA to develop a plan to improve the air quality in Dublin. This work will complement the work already underway in developing the all of government Clean Air Strategy.

(MH/CM)

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