Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy

Last updated: 30 September 2021

4. Policy and Regulatory Context

The Climate Change Act 2008 is the principle UK legislation which sets the UK’s national climate change target. The Act was amended in 2019 to move from an 80% reduction to a 100% target, creating a ‘net zero’ target for GHG emissions. The national target is mirrored in our Buckinghamshire net zero carbon emissions ambitions. While climate change affects local government services, there is no legislative requirement on local authorities to report on or reduce their carbon emissions. However, we recognise that climate change is a national and local priority and an issue in which the council has a crucial role to play.

National and European objectives and targets have been set to establish concentrations of air pollutants at levels deemed to be safe. Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 requires local authorities to review local air quality and assess whether air quality objectives will be achieved. Local Authorities monitor local air quality using methods outlined in the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) technical guidance and then reporting these results to DEFRA on an annual basis. If it is predicted that these will not be achieved an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) must be designated and an Air Quality Action Plan put in place to improve air quality to acceptable levels.

National emission reduction commitments for overall UK emissions of five damaging air pollutants are detailed in the Clean Air Strategy. The Clean Air Strategy also sets out the Government’s plans for dealing with all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.

To help regulate the emissions released by some industries the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) 2016 requires operators of “regulated facilities” to either obtain a permit or to register some activities as “exempt facilities”. These fall into three different categories:

  • Part A (1) - The Environment Agency regulates what is considered to be the most polluting of the 3 industrial categories, A (1) activities. These are regulated for emissions to land, air, water and other environmental considerations. Examples of A (1) activities are landfill sites and hazardous waste incinerators.
  • Part A (2) and Part B - Local Authorities regulate A (2) activities, as well as the lesser polluting Part B activities which are regulated for emissions to air only. Examples of Part B activities include petrol stations, dry cleaners and vehicle re-sprayers.

Clean growth is referenced in the Clean Air Strategy. It can be defined as increasing national income and productivity while conserving the natural environment and resources, including improving air quality and tackling climate change. This policy is supported by DEFRA’s Clean Growth Strategy, and its sister document the 25-year Environment Plan. The first is a plan for continuing to decarbonise the UK economy throughout the 2020s, whilst the second is a long term plan for nature’s recovery and health. These are complimented by the Road to Zero which sets out the Government’s commitment to reduce emissions from road transport, and the ambition of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to achieve sustainable development, including the protection and enhancement of our natural, built and historic environment. The forthcoming Environment Bill will introduce legally binding nature, water, air and waste targets from 2022.

The aim of the current Government is to reduce the impact of pollutants on the environment in a manner that would enable this generation to leave the planet in a better state than we found it.