Emission Impossible Ltd


UK Government loses third air pollution case as judge rules air pollution plans ‘unlawful’

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth today won a third case against the UK government over the country’s illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

In a ruling handed down at the High Court in London this morning, Judge Mr Justice Garnham declared the government’s failure to require action from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in their area unlawful.

He ordered ministers to require local authorities to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution in 33 towns and cities as soon as possible – as 12 of the 45 are projected to have legal levels by the end of 2018.

This will be of great embarrassment to ministers, as it is the third time that they have lost an air pollution court battle against ClientEarth.

Speaking outside of the court, ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “For the third time in the space of three years, the courts have declared that the government is failing in its obligation to clean up the air in our towns and cities.

“We are delighted that the court has today ordered the government to urgently take further action to fix the dangerous air pollution in our towns and cities.

“The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over eight years ago, and yet successive governments have failed to do enough.

“The people who live in areas of England and Wales covered by this judgment deserve to be able breathe clean air and the government must now do all it can to make that happen quickly.”

There was no ruling against the government for its decision to back-pedal on a previous commitment to legally ensure five cities implemented charging ‘Clean Air Zones’ – which charge the most polluting vehicles to enter the most polluted parts of a city.

However, Ministers issued Directions to those five cities in December 2017 requiring them to prepare a business case identifying measures to tackle pollution as soon as possible.

Lawyers for DEFRA told the court in January that they plan to issue further Directions to make sure those measures are implemented.

The Welsh government, which was also named as a defendant in the case, conceded at a High Court hearing in January that its failure to produce a plan was unlawful.

The Welsh government must now come up with a plan to meet legal limits of air pollution in Wales as soon as possible.

Today’s result means that Welsh Ministers will have to produce a draft plan by 30 April 2018 and a final plan by 31 July 2018.

[Source: ClientEarth]

Norway’s First All-Electric Ferry in Service

Geoff Dobson, 7 Feb 2018

Norway’s first all-electric ferry has reportedly cut emissions by 95% and costs by 80% compared to its fossil fuel counterparts.

The results are bringing in customers.

The ferry “Ampere” started in May 2015, aiming to reduce carbon dioxide and mono-nitrogen oxides as well as noise, electrek reports.

The partnership between ferry operator and shipping firm Norled AS, Fjellstrand Shipyard, Siemens AS, and Corvus Energy saw the latter two develop the electric powertrain and 1mWh battery system.

Another called “Elektra” also went into operation.

The ferry results were announced at the Nordic EV summit in Oslo on February 1-2, where Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) transport general manager Liz Yeaman of New Zealand was among the speakers.

A further 53 orders for electric ships have been received by shipbuilder Fjellstrand.

CleanTechnica reports Dutch company Port Liner will be introducing an autonomous electric barge for the European market from August.

Port Liner chief executive officer Ton van Meegen tells The Loadstar shipping industry trade journal that five autonomous electric barges will begin operating between the De Kempen intermodal terminal in the south of the Netherlands and Antwerp starting in August. They have been designed to fit beneath the many bridges there and are expected to remove 23,000 mostly diesel trucks from area roads.

Larger barges which can carry up to 280 containers are expected to enter service between Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam later this year.

[Source: TransportTalk.co.nz]

Consolidated biking statistics

We were introduced to Bikemunk, a handy website (not just for biking enthusiasts) which consolidates resources about various cycling statistics including related environmental and health statistics. Statistics from Bikemunk describe research conducted in 1995 which compared the exposure of cyclists, car drivers and pedestrians to traffic related pollutants. The 1995 study is consistent with the research we described in an earlier post showing that the health benefits of being outside (cycling or walking) outweigh the costs and risks of breathing in pollution.

2017 US EPA Integrated Science Assessment – Sulphur Dioxide

In December 2017, the US EPA published an updated integrated science assessment for sulphur dioxide using research published to end August 2016. Key findings on causality are summarised below as compared with the 2008 assessment.

The assessment also noted that reproductive and developmental effects were inadequate to infer a causal relationship for a wide range of exposure durations.

It should be noted that the assessment did not consider transformation products such as sulfate (these being considered in the integrated science assessment for particulate matter, US EPA, 2009).

Full assessment here:


Table 1. Causal determinations: short-term exposure*

Health effect category 2008 SOx ISA 2017 SOx ISA
Respiratory effects Causal relationship Causal relationship
Cardiovascular effects Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Inadequate to infer a causal relationship
Total mortality Suggestive of, but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship Suggestive of, but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship

*Short-term exposure refers to time periods of minutes up to 1 month


Table 2. Causal determinations: long-term exposure**

Health effect category 2008 SOx ISA 2017 SOx ISA
Respiratory effects Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Suggestive of, but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship
Cardiovascular effects Not included Inadequate to infer a causal relationship
Total mortality Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Inadequate to infer a causal relationship
Cancer Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Inadequate to infer a causal relationship

*Long-term exposure refers to time periods of more than one month to year.



Walking in traffic-polluted vs traffic free areas

Research has shown that long-term exposure to pollution can lead to diminish lung function, particularly for older populations or those suffering from illnesses, while short-term exposure to pollution at higher levels has been found to cause deaths from ischaemic heart disease and exacerbate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Research funded by the British Heart Foundation undertook a study to assess the effects on respiratory and cardiovascular responses of walking down a busy street with high levels of pollution in London (Oxford Street) compared with walking in a traffic-free area with lower pollution levels (Hyde Park) in older adults. This randomised, crossover study included men and women aged 60 years or older with angiographically proven stable ischaemic heart disease or COPD who had been clinically stable for 6 months, and age-matched healthy volunteers.

Ambient concentrations of black carbon, NO2, PM10, PM2.5 and ultrafine particulates were higher in Oxford Street than in Hyde Park. Participants with COPD reported more cough, shortness of breath, and wheeze after walking down Oxford Street compared with Hyde Park. All participants, regardless of their disease status, found walking in Hyde Park led to an increase in lung function, but these beneficial responses, in contrast were diminished after walking along Oxford Street.

The results indicate that short-term exposure to traffic pollution prevents the beneficial cardiopulmonary effects of walking in people with COPD, ischaemic heart disease, and those free from chronic cardiopulmonary diseases. These negative health effects emphasize the need to develop policies to control ambient levels of air pollution along busy streets.

[Source: The Lancet]

London mayor calls for ban on wood-burning stoves

Wood-burning stoves could be banned in some areas to combat air pollution under proposals by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Under the proposals, wood-burning stoves would be banned in urban areas with poor air quality. In recent years, wood-burning stoves have increased in popularity with 1.5m sold across Britain (they are most popular in south-east England, where 16% of households have them, compared with 5% nationally).

Between a quarter and a third of all of London’s fine-particle pollution is estimated to come from domestic wood burning. Khan said: “Non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London, so we need a hard-hitting plan of action to combat them similar to moves I am taking to reduce pollution from road vehicles.”

“With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer, and I am calling on government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

The mayor has asked the environment department to amend the Clean Air Act to allow for the creation of zero-emission zones where the burning of solid fuel is not allowed from 2025 on-wards.

A Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are determined to improve air quality and have put in place a £3bn plan to reduce roadside emissions.”

“Next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will address all sources of air pollution. We are also raising consumer awareness about the impact of burning wood on health and working with industry to help reduce harmful emissions.”

London’s emergency air quality alert was triggered last week for the seventh time in thirteen months. Polluted air from the continent combined with toxic air in London to create dangerous levels of pollution.

[Source: The Guardian]

New regulations for fuel specifications come into force 2 October 2017 (NZ)

New Zealand’s fuel specifications are changing as follows:

  • Introducing a total oxygen limit, which potentially allows a wider range of fuel blends;
  • Increasing New Zealand’s limit for methanol in petrol from one to three per cent volume;
  • Raising the biodiesel blend limit in diesel from five to seven per cent; and
  • Reducing the sulphur level allowed in petrol from 50 to 10 parts per million.

These amendments will take effect from 2 October 2017, except for the change to the maximum sulphur level, which will come into effect on 1 July 2018.

More information is available on the Ministry for Business, Innovation & Employment’s website on the 2016/17 updates to New Zealand’s engine fuel specifications.

Improving the quality of WHO guidelines over the last decade: progress and challenges

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines range from specific interventions targeting emerging health issues to general public health guidance. In 2007, WHO established the Guidelines Review Committee (GRC) to ensure that WHO guidelines meet the highest international standards and contain trustworthy and implementable recommendations. While the GRC played a positive role in the quality control of guidelines, these were often too long and technical, dissemination needed to improve and more products were needed for targeted audiences among other concerns such as issuing recommendations despite low-quality evidence,

A recent WHO evaluation concluded that although the GRC played a positive role in quality control of guidelines, the guidelines were often too long and technical, distribution needed to improve, and more derivative products are needed for specific audiences. Other identified concerns include issuance of strong recommendations despite low-quality evidence, suboptimal use of evidence in developing recommendations, insufficient diversity among guideline development group members, and incomplete adherence to WHO’s conflict of interest policy.

The production of high-quality guidelines is challenging for any organisation. WHO faces additional challenges having to adapt global recommendations to a local setting, which requires derivative products such as implementation tools or how-to manuals to ensure uptake. WHO Collaborating Centres, of which there are over 700 globally, play a crucial role in supporting guideline development; however, confusion arises when Collaborating Centres publish advice that is interpreted as being issued by WHO when this is not the case. Development of guidelines for emergency settings is particularly challenging because of time constraints and the evidence to inform future actions is often insufficient, particularly in the context of evolving or emerging public health threats. Finally, the framework underpinning guideline development at WHO—the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE)—was initially developed for clinical interventions, and although GRADE can be successfully applied to the development of guidelines in public health, there are numerous challenges, such as the formulation of recommendations on complex interventions, use of non-traditional types of data (eg, big data), and hazard identification.

Several steps would improve the quality of guidelines issued by WHO. First, WHO needs to put the necessary resources, both monetary and staff time, into producing trustworthy and effective guidelines. Second, WHO needs to promote and support evaluations of its guidelines to ensure an ongoing cycle of quality improvement. Third, collaboration needs to be augmented both within WHO and with external partners so that common challenges are discussed and solutions shared. Fourth, clear processes and methods for guideline development in the context of emergencies are needed to help to ensure valid recommendations and optimal transparency and usability, regardless of the development timeframe. Finally, guideline development must be receptive to the needs of end users. Guidelines need to be succinct and written for the target audience, while still describing transparent methods. Tools for guideline implementation, adaptation, and updating need to be planned from the beginning of each guideline development process, and not treated as afterthoughts.

WHO looks forward to its next 10 years of guideline development, meeting the substantial challenges head on, while continuing to self-reflect, evaluate, learn, and evolve. In an increasingly crowded arena of global health, WHO will work to ensure that its guidelines remain a trustworthy source of relevant, usable, and impactful normative guidance for Member States and the global public health community.

[Source: The Lancet]

Stuttgart judge demands diesel bans from 2018

A Stuttgart judge has ruled that retrofitting illegally polluting diesel vehicles will not solve the German region’s air quality crisis and demanded a diesel ban be implemented in the city from January 2018.

The ruling means Stuttgart’s government must rewrite its Air Quality Plan (AQP), as the current version is inadequate and will not protect people’s health in the shortest time possible.

Air quality in the region is illegally poor, regularly breaching limits for toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and dangerous coarse particles (PM10). The levels are some of the worst in Germany.

Stuttgart’s local government came up with a draft Air Quality Plan in response to legal action launched by environmental lawyers ClientEarth and German charity Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

The draft plan contained some positive measures – including a reactive ‘peak pollution’ diesel ban – but was not adequate to tackle Stuttgart’s air pollution, in the charities’ view. Shortly before the hearing, Stuttgart’s authorities tried to take a step back and avoid diesel bans, relying on the car industry’s proposals to retrofit older “Euro 5” diesel models.

But the judge agreed with ClientEarth and DUH that it was insufficient and ruled that restricting access to the most polluting diesel vehicles is unavoidable to protect the health of people living and working in Stuttgart.

ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “Hot on the heels of Dusseldorf and Munich, now Stuttgart too has been ordered by a court to introduce restrictions on the most polluting diesel vehicles. In striking contrast to reluctant governments and a discredited car industry, courts across Europe are stepping in to protect people’s right to clean air and to impose effective measures that will put a definitive end to this public health crisis.

“The judge has clarified that a diesel ban is unavoidable. Stuttgart’s authorities must now find rapid and effective ways to solve the region’s air quality issues. This should include a more structured approach that acknowledges the emissions issues with diesel vehicles – it must also not put undue confidence in what retrofitting can achieve.”

Lawyer Remo Klinger, who represented the NGOs in the case, said: “The court saw through the bluster of the Stuttgart authorities’ plan, posing critical questions and dismissing the arguments. We now have a reinforced decision that says diesel bans are the way forward and actionable as of today. This goes even further than the progressive decision by Düsseldorf in September – diesel bans are not just permitted in certain streets: they can be implemented for the whole low emission zone.”

Debate around diesel bans is ongoing in Germany, which is home to many global automotive heavyweights. Most recently, Munich’s mayor announced he would implement a diesel ban, on the basis that he could see “no other way” to bring alarming air pollution levels in the region down as quickly as possible.

A decision is due this autumn from the German Federal Administrative Court, which will determine whether cities have the power to ban diesel vehicles or the federal government must decide.

Stuttgart’s authorities must now introduce restrictions on diesel vehicles from January 2018 to tackle the public health emergency facing the city.

[Source: ClientEarth]

New mercury pollution threats: a global health caution


The Minamata Convention—a global agreement to tackle mercury—will enter into force on Aug 16, 2017, as the required 50th of the 128 signatory countries recently ratified the treaty, marking a long-awaited moment for the advancement of public health. However, while this achievement is celebrated, questions about whether governments are prepared to tackle complex issues surrounding implementation of the Convention remain rife. The Trump Administration has been actively working to revoke a host of environmental and health regulations, including restrictions on mercury discharges from coal-fired power plants, despite legal challenges by civil society groups. Meanwhile, in some southern regions of the globe, new mercury mining is intensifying, further undermining this treaty’s aims. Although some policy progress has been made for controlling mercury over the past decade, the emerging politics of deregulation and non-regulation pose serious threats to public health.

Years of intergovernmental negotiation went into the Minamata Convention, which aims to curb global mercury trade, use, and pollution, responding to abundant evidence on health effects of mercury. The convention includes restrictions on mercury mining to supply mercury for amalgamation in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, a leading source of mercury pollution. However, new mercury mining activities in Asia and Latin America have led to inexpensive mercury supplies and increased mercury use in gold extraction. In Mexico, so-called informal mercury mining increased by ten times between 2014 and 2016. In mining areas across Indonesia, cheap mercury has led to severe exposures, reportedly causing birth defects and other detrimental health effects, with mercury in water and sediment in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sites stated to be 600–3000 times the WHO standard.5 Small-scale miners associations worldwide have argued that unless their right to a livelihood is legally recognised and supported, efforts to curb mercury use will fail, as socioeconomic drivers of mercury use have been under-addressed to date. Advocacies of marginalised groups in small-scale mining communities often receive little attention in policy formulation and implementation agendas—a problem plaguing the Minamata Convention Nation Action Plans in many countries.

What needs to be done to achieve the health benefits that the Minamata Convention was designed to accomplish? Diverse economic inequities and power dynamics fuel mercury exposure; diverse modes of resistance are thus needed. The Trump Administration must be stopped from revoking mercury regulations. The public health community also should pressure governments everywhere to heed marginalised voices, firmly speak out against underlying sociopolitical processes that fuel mercury threats, and build solidarities with affected groups.

Source: [The Lancet]