Government publishes new clean air strategy

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has published a new clean air strategy for consultation.

The proposals are in addition to the Government’s £3.5bn plan to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July last year.

The Government say these actions will reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1bn every year by 2020, rising to £2.5bn every year from 2030.

The new clean air strategy is a response to an EU directive on cutting deadly emissions.

They have pledged the following:

  • By 2025 the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the WHO guideline limit of 10 ug/m3 will be reduced by 50%
  • New legislation to give local government new powers to improve air quality.
  • New legislation to ensure only the ‘cleanest domestic fuels will be available for sale.’
  • Concerted action to tackle ammonia from farming by requiring farmers to invest in the infrastructure that will reduce emissions.
  • To develop new standards for tyres and brakes which address toxic non-exhaust emissions of microplastics from vehicles.
  • To provide a personal air quality messaging system to inform the public, particularly those who are vulnerable to air pollution, about the air quality forecast.
  • New investment into scientific research and innovation strengthening the UK’s position as a world leader in clean technology and secure further emissions reductions.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.

‘This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of government to improve air quality.

‘Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution. Our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers, industry and households to develop innovative new solutions to reduce emissions. It also highlights how we can all take action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air.’

Reacting to the consultation, Oliver Hayes, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

‘Air pollution is estimated to cost the UK £20bn a year in NHS costs and days off sick, so a strategy to save just £1bn annually does not begin to approach the scale of the problem.

‘This is supposed to be a strategy to lower air pollution from a wide range of sources, but measures to reduce road traffic are conspicuous by their absence. Road vehicles are a key source of deadly particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution; failure to properly address this shows a fundamental lack of ambition.

‘Unfortunately, it looks like history repeating itself when it comes to Clean Air Zones: powers handed over to local authorities without the accompanying funds to implement them, despite a welcome widening of their scope beyond just transport.’

The consultation closes on August 14.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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