The UK government’s new Clean Air Strategy, launched today by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), aims to create a new legal air quality framework and give local government new powers to take action. The strategy sets to halve the number of people living in areas where concentrations of air particulate matter exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for air quality.

Commenting on the new strategy, Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Director of UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, said:

“Two things are needed to successfully reduce air pollution: ambition and resources. Unfortunately, the new Clean Air Strategy falls short on both. Dirty vehicles need to be phased out quicker, while local authorities, already stretched beyond capacity by cuts, need adequate resources to implement clean air zones. More is needed to realise the health benefits of cycling and walking – currently less than 1% of the transport budget is spent on active transport.”

According to current estimates, outdoor air pollution contributes to around 40,000 premature deaths, over 6 million sick days and an estimated total social cost of over £20 billion per year. In 2017, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) revealed that 44 of the 51 UK cities in the WHO’s ambient air pollution database exceed WHO’s recommended limit for air particulate matter.

22 May 2018

Notes 

  • To organise an interview with Laurie Laybourn-Langton, please contact Viivi Erkkila, Communications Manager, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change at viivi.erkkila@ukhealthalliance.org or +44 (0) 7792454130.
  • The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change brings together the UK’s leading health institutions, including the Royal Medical Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal Society of Medicine, the British Medical Association, the Faculty of Public Health, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal. It advocates for responses to climate change that protect and promote public health.
  • The Royal College of Physicians and the Lancet Countdown, Research shows 44 UK cities breach World Health Organization guidelines on air pollution, 30 October 2017.