HC Deb 22 April 2002 vol 384 cc18-9W
Malcolm Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures the Government have put in place to reduce the levels of the air pollutants(a) sulpher dioxide, (b) NO, and (c) PM10. [48545]

Mr. Meacher

Levels of all three pollutants have reduced significantly in recent years as emissions from industry and road transport have fallen. The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory shows that emissions of each pollutant fell by the following amounts between 1990 and 1999 (the latest year for which figures are available).

Pollutant Emissions in 1990 Emissions in 1999 Percentage reduction
Sulphur dioxide 3,754 1,187 68
Oxides of Nitrogen 2,760 1,605 42
Particles (PM10) 305 186 39

In respect of sulphur dioxide, the most significant emissions reductions in recent years have come about as a result of changes in industrial practices as well as the regulatory controls we have imposed. We estimate, for example, that fuel switching from coal to gas in power stations (which began in 1992–93) has reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by one million tonnes from what it might otherwise have been. We also estimate that the fitting of flue gas desulphurisation to two large coal power stations in 1993–94 has reduced emissions by 0.2 million tonnes; and that the use of lower-sulphur coal has reduced emissions by about 0.15 million tonnes. In respect of particles and oxides of nitrogen, the most significant contribution has come from the reductions in road transport emissions which are largely the result of the progressively tighter European Union standards for new motor vehicles and fuels. The introduction of three way catalysts on petrol vehicles in the early 1990s, for example, is estimated to have reduced emissions of oxides of nitrogen in 1999 by about 30 per cent. compared to what emissions might otherwise have been. Improvements in diesel vehicle technology have also made a significant contribution to reducing emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particles. The UK Government have helped to incentivise the early uptake of clean fuels (such as ultra-low-sulphur diesel and petrol) by setting preferential duty rates for them.