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Air quality

Over the last few weeks I've been noticing green activists posting lots of comments about air quality. All this activity has culminated in litigation against the government, as reported here by Roger Harrabin.

The government is facing a case in the UK Supreme Court later over its failure to cut air pollution in line with legal limits.

...An environment charity, ClientEarth, will now argue in the Supreme Court that the national courts must enforce EU environment law in the UK.

As reader Ron (to whom a tip of the hat is due) points out there is a certain irony in environmentalists doing this. In dutiful obedience to their wishes, wood-pellet boilers and other biomass heating devices have been made exempt from the provisions of the Clean Air Act.

So the greens demand actions that make the air dirtier and then sue the government for allowing this to happen. This is what is called joined-up environmentalism.

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Reader Comments (58)

Hypocrisy, do as I say etc, etc. The Greens ? surely not?

Mar 8, 2013 at 10:14 AM | Registered Commentertomo

ClientEarth sounds a lot like one of those "green charities" that is in fact just a law firm.

Mar 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

More joined-up environmentalism from Roger Harrabin's article:

"However, the government's drive to reduce CO2 emissions blamed for changing the climate has partly contributed to the problem, by encouraging drivers to turn to diesel vehicles."

This is an interesting business model for a law firm.

Mar 8, 2013 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterSelgovae


Mar 8, 2013 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

I see that one of ClimateEarth's supporters is the UK Department for International Development.

So one arm of the UK government is giving money to a charity to sue another bit.

Try as I might, I can't help feeling that there is something wrong with this arrangement.

Mar 8, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

They were in favor of burning biomass before they were against it. (A common progression of thought among progressives)

Mar 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterrxc

We use a wood burner, because fuel is easy to come by in the country, and when it is extra cold put coal on for that extra boost of heat. Works well.

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

ClientEarth had an annual income of £2.5m and out of this spent £1.7m on wages, £224,592 on "generating grants" and £368,503 on support costs*

*Some of these amounts will overlap, for example £169k of the "generating grants" is on staff costs.

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The Department for International Development gave ClientEarth £923,361 from April 2012 to the end of December. If their income for 2012 was similar to 2011 then DfID is providing them with 35% of their income.

DfiD also provided the International Broadcasting Trust (28gate seminar organisers) with £160,491 in 2012 which is more than their entire income in 2011.

DfID was one of the only government departments not to have its budget cut in the spending review. It is about time this changed.

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

EU "environmental charities" almost all get 70% of their money direct from the EU and almost all the rest from state donations. Since this "charity" is better at advertising for employees than donations this is clearly such a government fakecharity.

So what we see is a government sock puppet suing the government to "force" it to be more overweening and parasitic. As reported by Harrabin, employee of the BBC government owned sock puppet.

Democracy reduced to Kabuki theatre.

Mar 8, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

@ John Marshall Mar 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

"We use a wood burner, because fuel is easy to come by in the country, ......."

Whoa there John.

I trust your wood-burner & its fuel are fully compliant with all relevant legislation?

For instance, DEFRA in its infinite wisdom, clearly defines the specification of fuels allowed to be consumed in each make/model of "Exempt Appliance". The link applies to England; there are others for other UK regions.

Some wood burners are allowed to burn "Dry cured untreated wood" and DEFRA helpfully gives the maximum size: 38.1cm x 10.16cm x 5.08cm. Whoever measures lumps of wood fuel to 1/10th mm??

Mar 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

It is Joined up Environmentalism.

Deep Greens say they want to deindustrialise and depopulate. Both measures work to this end.

Mar 8, 2013 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterTDK

It would be good if a journalist such as Delingpole (if he's reading) or Booker could expose this fake charity malarky (indeed Guido might be best) - it would be easy to push to a public who want cuts made that dont hurt them personally and would if acted upon be the biggest blow we could inflict on the Greens. Cos lets be honest they don't raise much in the way of funds outside Sainsburys!

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterduncan

In Sweden we have a lot of bio-mass. In certain small places up north almost all heating comes from burning (locally very cheap) wood. Consequently these places, long from other polutants, have among the worst air in the country. If we exclude cars the air in Stockholm is quite pure as almost all heating comes from central heating, and, which is interesting, from huge heat pumps taking their energy from sewage water, which, in winter time, is warmer than "natural" water.

Gösta Oscarsson
Stockholm (living in an heat pump area where my sewage comes back as heat in my radiators)

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterGösta Oscarsson

Perhaps somebody should sue the green industry for putting us in this position in the first place?

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Registered Commentermangochutney

The Charity Commission under its previous chair, Dames Suzi Leather, conducted a vendetta against organisations that she did not approve of for political reasons, e.g. independent (or "public") schools. Whatever your opinions on education there was something questionable about using the Charity Commission to advance her political agenda.

Presumably the Charity Commission thinks that it is perfectly OK for the public to be fleeced to support a "charity" that then sues the government so that the public can be fleeced even more for the purposes of advancing the political agenda of members of that "charity."

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

They haven't a clue what really bad air quality is!

Thank heavens I'm not in Athens. Out here on the islands everyone has taken to using woodburners since the price of heating oil has hit over €1.40 a litre but at least we're warm.

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commentermeltemian

"DEFRA helpfully gives the maximum size: 38.1cm x 10.16cm x 5.08cm"

Most of my logs are roughly cylindrical, although they can be any old shape after splitting. Has anyone in DEFRA even seen a tree?

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

@joe public - someone has just converted the imperial measurements into metric. That's 15" X 4" X 2".

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterpalantir

Nice one palantir. It seems some need Government (DEFRA) advice as to the size and shape of a log: "Burning; logs for".

Soon we'll all need government approval: "Bums; wiping of". "Eggs; sucking of".

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

If we want to balance our budget and start lowering the deficit, it is "charities" like ClientEarth and similar "environmental groups" that need to be pulled off the Government teat- sharpish.

Talk about "biting the hand that feeds you"!

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

The really sad thing about this is that we should indeed be getting particulates and gaseous pollutants out of the air we breathe. It is indeed completely mad that we permit people to drive diesels in our cities. But the Green hysteria about CO2 and Global Warming has turned people against all environmental responsibility.

There's only one thing madder than allowing vast quantities of mico particles from diesel to be discharged into the air we breathe. That is ignoring those particulate emissions and instead getting very excited about the emissions of the one gas, CO2, that has is harmless to humans and animals and beneficial to plant life.

The problem is the Green movement has turned from its original roots and got itself firmly established as the marketing arm of the alternative energy and fuel lobbies, and in doing so has probably directly and indirectly done more damage to the environment than the worst that the fossil fuel industry could do. With more to come.

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermichel

Having resided in Los Angeles for a time, I am far more sympathetic to complaints about air quality, which causes demonstrable and immediate health effects, than to greenhouse gases, whose effects are indirect and decades in the making.

It is doubly ironic that, in attempting to avoid environmental damage from global warming, biomass burning not only contributes to air quality issues, but also to black carbon which is associated with warming (esp. Arctic).

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

In 2010 and 2011 ClientEarth received 735k and 748k euros via EU. The contribution directly from EU funds was 39.17% and 36.48% respectively. See the list here and click on the appropriate year.

Via the Charity Commission website you can see they had a significant increase in income in recent years.

Mar 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Don't worry about this. By the time they've rolled out Smart Meters by 2019, we'll have realised £80millionsworth (NPV) of air quality improvement, thanks to our savings in fuel use. They're making very big assumptions on the gains to be made, but it's all done by modelling, so it must be right.

Mar 8, 2013 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan_UK

Founder James Thornton is from the National Resources Defense Council in the US, where they have been doing the same thing with the US EPA. There is a revolving door between NGO's such as NRDC and the EPA and there is a culture of the EPA funding these groups to lobby them for legislation. That was how they got the Endangerment Finding on "greenhouse gases" through.

NRDC was originally set up by James Gustave Speth, a former executive director of the UN Development Programme, still on the NRDC Board of Trustees. He also set up the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale now boasts a certain Rajendra Pachauri as Director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute and Professor in the Practice of Sustainable Development. Speth also set up the World Resources Institute, where Al Gore is a director and where former WWF International Climate Director (and former Blair advisor), Jennifer Morgan, is installed on climate policy.

NRDC has a long association with IPCC, current NRDC policy director David Doniger, laid out the blueprint for Kyoto, which was based on the Montreal Protocol. He was director of climate change policy at the EPA in the Clinton administration and counsel to the head of the EPA's clean air program.

In the classic Massachusetts vs EPA law suit, which opened the door for the EPA to declare that CO2 was a toxin that could be controlled under the Clean Air Act, these NGO's were all party to the action and the lead lawyer, Lisa Heinzerling, later went to work for the EPA to help enforce the regulations:

Center for Biological Diversity,
· Center for Food Safety,
· Conservation Law Foundation,
· Environmental Advocates,
· Environmental Defense,
· Friends of the Earth,
· Greenpeace,
· International Center for Technology Assessment,
· National Environmental Trust,
· Natural Resources Defense Council,
· Sierra Club,
· Union of Concerned Scientists, and
· U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Note that Zac Goldsmith is a patron, along with ColdPlay? Shouldn't they rename themselves HotPlay?

Meet the ClientEarth staff: and their advisors:

Advisor Prof John Boardman is a Research Fellow at Green College, Oxford, where Crispin Tickell was Warden between 1990-97, when he appointed George Monbiot as a Visiting Fellow. There are also plenty of eurocrats on board. There are several from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, which is a hotbed of warmists, if I am allowed such a phrase.

Others have pointed out the money from DFID, amongst others, with some of the usual suspects present, such as Esme Fairburn, Oak Foundation, European Climate Foundation.

Mar 8, 2013 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

A bunch of parasitic lawyers sucking from another governmental teat!
Funny how my (& I guess the bulk of the general publics') perception of a charity, differs wildly from what's happening in reality.

Mar 8, 2013 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Breaking news: Barnwell Manor, Sudborough wind farm refused.

Mar 8, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Yup. ClientEarth looks like another fake charity, set up to route money from the taxpayer (some via Brussels) to a bunch of lawyers on the back of litigation pertaining to 'the environment'. I believe the latest euphemism is 'sock puppet'.

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDevonshireDozer

Improve air quality:

1. Natural gas power-plants and car/truck transport systems, and
2. Nuclear energy.

Renewables cannot take too large a share of the total energy system because of their inherent low efficiency (21% for wind, and something similar for solar except in cloudles deserts at the equator, but still <35%), and penchant for times of absolute zero performance. Ditto for geothermal and tidal: somewhat limited by the construction of the planet. Biomass and wood energy sources are carbon-neutral, but produce particulates and other, polluting compounds. So what's left? Hydrol-power, drowning the natural world?

The eco-green are inevitably going to be pro-natural gas and pro-nuclear. Not now, but when the first brownouts and blackouts happen, when they either join the solution or are publicly identified as part of the problem.

Mar 8, 2013 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Proctor

AM, says: "So the greens demand actions that make the air dirtier and then sue the government for allowing this to happen.". So, are you saying that, for example, London's air quality problems are directly caused by burning biomass and not by traffic? Where's the data to back that up? As a good skeptic, I'm sure you would have examined the data before making such a claim...

Mar 8, 2013 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Here's a publication from the (free-market!) IEA think tank that describes the phenomenon of government-funded charities and pressure groups:

Mar 8, 2013 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRuth Dixon

I have learned something new from Bitbucket - that London equates to the UK. Thanks for the informtion, Bitbucket.

Mar 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

"This is what is called joined-up environmentalism."

I was going more for #lawofinvevitibleconsequences, but OK

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJunkkMale

I imagine that AM understands the meaning of the words, "for example", better than our greek freind, Diogenese, but on the chance that he doesn't, let me rephrase my question. In which areas of the UK that fail air quality tests has it been shown that burning biomass is the direct cause?

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Change tack,did alarmist nutters [the EU/UN/Obama et al[ just like the wind. Alarmists, can't do us on science - it was rubbish, then, they tried species nope....................... now the new 'path' is air pollution!!

Another tack here.

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

BitBucket - if you are interested, and don't want spoon feeding for debating points, you could do worse than start with this Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics non paywalled full paper:

"New considerations for PM, Black Carbon and particle number concentration for air quality monitoring across different European cities"

and this European Topic Centre Report:

Google on "biomass PM exceedance" to get a feel for it, and don't just restrict yourself to the UK.

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Not only did the Charity Commission pursue Dame Suzi's political agenda, it did so at the expense of day job. It completely failed to spot pure scams such as the Cup Trust, and has been supine in the face of organisations like ClientEarth or Common Purpose that use a mixture of public funding and donors' money to pay themselves salaries and subsidise their attempts to subvert the democratic process. Let's hope Mt Shawcross will be more pragmatic and focus on what really constitutes charitable activity.

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

It is quite striking that the people who could really deliver an effective sustainable world are those known and despised as "sceptics". They are the ones who actually know how to delivery it, rather than need to, or dream to, or fantasize about it.

Only facts and unadulterated data will provide the mechanics with the ability to work toward improving the welfare of mankind as it develops. The present day ideological wish lists of "how it should be" will last for awhile. But basically mankind will not stop developing his skills and ability. No magnitude of hair shirt wearing will put the genie back in the bottle. History dictates that any attempts to do so will eventually end in conflict.

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:19 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

They don't like the government funding lobby groups to sue the government in Oregon either:

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Here's another example:

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Can't help wondering what the air quality in the UK will be like a year from now, and two years from now, when the greenies have their wish, and the coal fired stations have started shutting down, and the rolling power cuts become established..

The public won't sit in the dark and freeze. Haven't you noticed the uptick in solid fuel stoves online already? We will re-instate our fireplaces and chimney stacks. And when that takes off, and millions of us are lighting our fires every morning, we will be able to burn anything we want, because who is going to know, and who is going to stop us? Some divvy from the council with a clipboard? Srsly?
We will be able to burn all the waste we don't want to faff around with. End of recycling problems. Everything but glass and metal, will go up the chimney.

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterMonty

"One of these things is not like the other..."

Governance by Sesame Street, indeed.

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Any tactic, any tool that advances"the Green cause" is dusted off and wheeled out - there are consistent features it's now apparent - of pretty much anything that these folk bleat and whinny about.

Ignorance,innumeracy, fantasy and a near complete lack of thinking things through in favour of developing a rhythmic chant seems to be a standard operating procedure. As long as there's not too many difficult long words and the metre is chant-able - off they go.

The cheerleaders and their puppetmasters have no scruples about how they are funded since it isn't their money - generally they've stolen public funds, are raiding hijacked philanthropic institutions or are funded my third parties with vested financial interest (Hello Vladimir!) it seems.

The usual shysters are lurking about just off stage - Patchauri, Tickell and so on. Meanwhile the public face is played (by Harrabin - BBC et al) as concerned citizens behaving responsibly in doing public good.

The recipe of powerful economic players funding noisy crowds of zealots is a toxic brew and as what's at stake becomes increasingly apparent - the clamor will increase - as will the clouds of dung flies like Deben, Yeo & Huhne.

What a mess.

Mar 9, 2013 at 7:42 AM | Registered Commentertomo

It is absolutely disgraceful that these Greenie troughers and crooks have been able to set up this construct of "charities" at taxpayers' expense, which then are encouraged to lobby (or even take legal action against) Government to pursue their agenda and line their copious pockets.
If some bunch of fascists was to attempt to set up a "charity" to examine the inferiority of jews and negroes, they would (quite rightly) be in court in a trice. No "charity" and no Government funding for you!

So why is Greenie agit prop promoted in this way? Maybe a little less offensive but actually considerably more damaging!

Nice to see all the stuff about air quality. I do hope the DfID is trying to stamp out dung and sticks being used for cooking and warmth in the third world, since they have prevented access to reliable and affordable energy! Let 'em shiver, hungry in the dark! That'll be the ticket, (according to the eco-fascists!)

Finally, it has to be admitted that there is obviously a sensible hypothesis that respirable PM2.5 tar and soot particles are likely to be damaging to health. It is likely that they cause problems in urban areas for vulnerable people. Maybe some deaths. But call me an old cynic (many do!), I don't believe for a moment? the computerised hecatombs suggested by the usual suspect "psyentists".
Hundreds of thousands dead, apparently. Would those be the same hundreds of thousands or different hundreds of thousands, to the ones who annually perish from climate change, extreme weather, smoking, drinking, eating red meat, eating processed food, too much fat, too much salt, too much sugar, too little exercise, too much stress, flying off to the Costa Lotta and all the rest of it? If all these (and countless more) groups of folk pegging it for not listening to Nanny are all separate groups, how come anyone is left?

And do statistical comparisons of health vs. air quality (either historically, or comparing the UK with Sweden on one hand and the old GDR on the other, say) demonstrate that folk are really dropping like flies due to diesel engines? Really?

Air quality (as opposed to climate change) is a genuine concern. But I suspect that it is hugely overblown.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

I believe that you are right. For most people in a pre-1960s house opening up a old chimney will be simple. Even 1970/s/80s houses with flues for gas fires could be retro-fitted with liners I think. The law of unitended consequences could extend to more than just air quality. Who under 40 has experienced far less dealt with a chimney fire? Where are all the chimney sweeps going to come from, will Bulgarian and Roumanian sweeps be allowed into the UK because they have skills the country is in desperate need of? Will the Fire-service be able to cope with the additional load from fires created by candles/oil lamps/chimney fires?

I am keeping an eye out for news items about sales of solid fuel stoves as I have had a couple of thoughts on retirement income for when it happens in earnest and there is a decent installed base.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@Martin Brumby
Even comparisons back to the 50s are worthless. How many people who died in London "Peasoupers" had existing health issues prior to death? Life expectancy then was very much lower then and that was for good reasons.

Once again it's a show me the bodies situation

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"will Bulgarian and Roumanian sweeps be allowed into the UK because they have skills the country is in desperate need of?"

Why do they need skills? They are coming by right next year anyway.

"How many people who died in London "Peasoupers" had existing health issues prior to death?"

No one actually examines each body and looks at predispositions. The deaths were calculated epidemiologically, i.e. excess over what would normally be expected. Over 4000 died prematurely in winter of 1950.

I started my career as an EHO ["Some divvy from the council with a clipboard?" ;-)] and did a lot with air pollution in Liverpool in late 70's. The air quality was a massive improvement on the 60's. One of my jobs as a trainee was to occasionally patrol smokeless zones and report smoke from chimneys.

cheers David

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Schofield

For more biomass madness, see:

Well worth a read.

If the goal is to reduce the UK's emissions then there is a monumental fail. Perhaps Gove would be better to do something about the educational standards of MPs since it appears that they cannot grasp the basics.

---Wind doesn't reduce CO2 emissions since one needs near 100% backup by conventional generators.

---Biomass doesn't reduce CO2 emissions since per Kwh, more CO2 is produced by burning wood pellets than by burning coal, and the forest in the USA was there in any event and would be there irrespective of whether its trees are felled for biomass wood chip, or for paper, or for constructional wood for houses etc.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

@ Richard Verney 09:44

Biomass approx 0.013 kgCO2/kW at the prescribed specification.

Coal approx 0.35 kgCO2/kW

But Biomass is is the fuel most susceptible to CO2/kW variability at point of use because of its hygroscopic tendency

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

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