Transport is now main source of air pollution as industrial emissions drop

Emissions from traffic are now the main source of air pollution and the main reason for 95% of the designated Air Quality Management Areas in the UK, the Environment Agency has warned.

Reporting to its board this week, the Agency said that better controls were needed on road transport to meet air quality targets in the future.

By contrast, emissions from large industrial processes regulated by the Environment Agency, now account for a relatively small contribution to total air emissions.

Emissions patterns from electricity generation, the dominant source of nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide, are increasingly influenced by the relative market favourability of coal and gas. However, significant investment in plant improvement and pollution abatement is being seen in the sector.

Power stations fitted with flue gas desulphurisation equipment now account for 33% of coal fired electricity generation, looking to rise to 40% by 2007. A new regulatory framework to be introduced by the Environment Agency from October 2005 will reduce the cap in total annual SO2 emissions from the industry as a whole and will permit transfer of plant specific allowances between operators.

The potential for reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions will also be included in the Large Combustion Plant Directive, due to come into force later this year.

However, transport lies outside all Environment Agency regulatory limits and is likely to have the most significant impact on air quality of all sectors over the next ten year s unless further action is taken.

By David Hopkins

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