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Chair’s Column – April 2016

claire-holman-lancs   The clocks have changed, plants are budding and we are launching our 2016 events programme, in what could be a seminal year for air quality. It looks like Defra will be in court again with ClientEarth challenging the 2015 Air Quality Plan; even if voters support Brexit in June there will be a transition period before we formally leave, and therefore the air quality directive will continue to be in force for some years. The recent Policy Exchange/King’s College report states that the NO2 limits are unlikely to be achieved with current and planned policies in London until at least 2030. This is more pessimistic but probably more realistic than Defra’s plan which says they will be achieved by 2025. It notes that the shift from petrol to diesel vehicles over the last 15 years has been “disastrous in terms of its impact on air quality and health” and recommends that the European Commission makes further changes to deliver the original Euro 6 diesel car standards, in full by 2021. The authors believe shifting away from diesels to a mix of petrol, hybrid, electric and LPG vehicles can significantly reduce local pollution whilst having no adverse impact on CO2 emissions, and recommend the government introduce a diesel scrappage scheme. It was notable that Defra’s air quality plan contained no fiscal incentives such as this, and vehicle excise duty continues to be based on CO2 emissions with no account taken of PM and NOx. The Policy Exchange/King’s College report also states that policymakers must address emissions from gas combustion if air quality limits are to be reached. The next Mayor of London needs to set out an ambitious plan to clean up London’s stock of boilers and restrict the most polluting vehicles and promote low emission alternatives to improve air quality. Next month Londoners will be voting for their next Mayor and it will be very interesting to see how s/he responses to the air quality challenge. In a few weeks’ time we will be running our Dispersion Modellers User Group (DMUG) conference in London. We have an interesting mix of presenters from statutory agencies (Environment Agency; Highways England) to universities and consultancies. You may be particularly interested to hear from Ricardo about the streamlined PCM model developed to test measures for Defra’s recent Air Quality Plan, and from CERC on developments in modelling building wake effects in ADMS. One aim of DMUG is to broaden our members’ knowledge of dispersion modelling beyond those models used on a regular basis. IAQM Committee Member Dr Bethan Tuckett Jones, for example, will be discussing the use of computational fluid dynamics modelling, and Scott Hamilton will be discussing the use of WRF/CALPUFF for modelling odours at industrial facilities. I hope you can attend. The working group that I chair on the development of guidance for the assessment of mineral sites in the planning system is currently with the designer after eight iterations. A version will be issued for consultation to you in the next few weeks, with the view to launching the guidance at 2pm on 24 May at Arup’s offices in London. Many thanks to the members of the group for all your hard work and constructive discussions. At our Committee meeting in January we agreed our other events for the year. Dates for your diary include a review of the EPUK/IAQM Planning Guidance published last year at 1 pm on 15 July. Is it working? Is there anything we need to change? Following the success of last year’s 2 day conference, Routes to Clean Air 2016 (#RTCA16) will be back at The Grand Hotel in Bristol for the 11th and 12th of October. Like last year, you can expect a number of international speakers highlighting the importance of public communication and behavioural change in road transport and air quality issues as well as a presentation to acknowledge the 60th Anniversary of the 1956 Clean Air Act. You can expect presentations on health effects including, we hope, the quantification of the NO2 effects, some city case studies and vehicle emissions. We have also been keen to improve our inclusion of air quality monitoring at IAQM events and hope to hold a session on innovative methods here. Stand by for speakers and themes which will be revealed very soon Super Early Bird Tickets are available now. We had hoped to hold it in Birmingham as it is good to have events in different parts of the country, but the cost was significantly higher.  Next year we will investigate holding it in Manchester. The final date for your diary is 16 November when we will hold our AGM, followed by a discussion on the effectiveness of air quality mitigation measures. This will also be held at Arup’s London office. We hope to issue a new position statement on cumulative assessments fairly soon, and possibly another on how to detail with the uncertainty over road traffic emissions. Later in the year members of the Committee and others will be contributing to an air quality issue of the Environmental Scientist. Finally, thank you to those who took the time to complete the survey on the EU. Nearly 90% believe that EU membership has been good for managing ambient air quality over the past 15 years and 65% believe that it will be good for air quality in the future. More information on the results of this survey will be available in a SocEnv report expected to be published before the referendum. I believe IAQM offers a good programme of events and publications given our limited resources. We are open to suggestions for other activities, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. Claire Holman
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