HC Deb 12 November 1987 vol 122 cc188-9W
Sir John Biggs-Davison

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about progress in reducing acid rain.

Mr. Moynihan

A report by the indpendent United Kingdom review group on acid rain, published by my Department in May 1987, concluded that there is evidence of a decline in acid deposition, particularly deposition associated with sulphur emissions. There is little evidence of a change in the levels of nitrate deposition. This is broadly in line with the downward trend in emissions in the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

United Kingdom sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have fallen by about 40 per cent. since 1970, while our nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions have remained broadly stable. These trends compare very favourably with those of other European countries. Recently, however, emissions have shown a tendency to rise as a result of increasing demand for energy, associated with higher economic growth, and increased vehicle use. Provisional figures for 1986 show United Kingdom emissions of SO2 and NOx of 3.74 million tonnes and 1.94 tonnes, respectively, compared with 1985 figures of 3.56 million tonnes and 1.84 tonnes, respectively. The upward trend is exaggerated because the 1985 figures were artificially low as a result of the miners' strike.

In anticipation of this trend, the CEGB is embarking on a major emission control programme involving the fitting of flue gas desulphurisation equipment at the Drax and Fiddlers Ferry coal-fired power stations and low-NOx burners to all 12 of its largest such stations, at a cost approaching £1 billion. New coal-fired power stations, of which four are planned by the CEGB for commissioning by 2000, will also be fitted with similar emission control technology. This major programme will help to ensure the continuation of the long-term downward trend in acid emissions. Few countries are doing more to reduce such emissions, and few are likely to match our performance between 1970 and the turn of the century.

The European Community recently moved a step closer to agreement on a framework for new EC vehicle emission standards. The proposals are now subject to the new co-operation procedure between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The Government attach high priority to the successful completion of this process at the earliest possible date.