The Government wants to know what we think of its proposals to tackle dirty air. We say they are not nearly ambitious enough. The World Health Organisation set air quality guidelines in 2005. The UK Government is suggesting that we meet them... by 2040.
Air pollution is dangerous to all our health, and particularly to children, pregnant women, older people and those living with lung conditions. It gets into our lungs and can damage every organ in the body. It contributes to tens of thousands of UK deaths each year.
Tragically, Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who suffered a fatal asthma attack aged nine, was one victim of air pollution, and the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. Her mother, the campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, has criticised the proposed targets as unambitious.
A 2040 target is nowhere near good enough: we need clean air now.
The Healthy Air Campaign, of which we are a member, has created a quick, straightforward tool which you can use to respond to the consultation on air pollution targets. Please respond by the deadline of 27 June, and share the tool with your friends.
Research published last week showed that almost all UK homes (97 per cent) are affected by air pollution, exceeding WHO limits for at least one of three key pollutants, while more than two-thirds (70 per cent) exceed the limits for all three. You can use this postcode checker to see if your home, workplace or children's school is in an area with illegal levels of pollution and include it in your response.
This is a health emergency. It is affecting us all, and traffic on the roads is largely to blame.
"The major threat to clean air is now posed by traffic emissions. Petrol and diesel engine motor vehicles emit a wide variety of pollutants, principally carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM10), which have an increasing impact on urban air quality. In addition, pollutants from these sources may not only prove a problem in the immediate vicinity of these sources, but can be transported long distances." - Government Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs
Targets for shifting to electric cars and vans are very welcome, but at the moment, the shift isn't happening quickly enough. In 2021, battery electric cars accounted for 12 per cent of new car sales, but only one per cent of overall cars on the roads.
There are other things the Government could do as well, and the good news is they would have many additional benefits, including reducing carbon emissions, cutting traffic and making streets safer. They include:
- Improving public transport and encouraging people on board
- Bringing in a national network of Clean Air Zones where polluting vehicles are discouraged
- Investing in safe, attractive walking and cycling routes
- Bringing in more zero-emission buses.
The Government needs a much more ambitious approach to tackling air pollution, because everyone has the right to breathe clean air.