Friday 7 August 2020
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change has today made a submission to the EFRA Committee Inquiry on Air Quality.
During the UK’s initial lockdown travel restrictions brought about considerable reductions in the levels of some transport-related air pollutants (namely NOx, which was reduced by up to 40% in some urban areas). Recent survey results indicate that temporarily cleaner air has built strong public support for action to permanently improve air quality across the UK, with 83% of people recognising that air pollution is affecting their health, and over two-thirds support stricter legislation to protect environmental and public health.
Such changes will naturally improve public and environmental health, and a recent report by McKinsey has emphasised that better health also promotes economic growth by expanding the labour force and boosting productivity. UKHACC also believes in the potential for the Government’s economic stimulus package to realise these and numerous other co-benefits if it prioritises health for people and planet. To this end, we have outlined our principles for a healthy recovery.
Now is therefore the right time to tackle air pollution, and UKHACC believes that foremost in the Government’s strategy to bring about cleaner air for all should be the following commitments in the Environment Bill:
- Limits on particulate matter – The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limit for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution should be included on the face of the Bill – to be met by 2030 at the latest.
- Planning – Robust plans are needed to ensure binding targets are met, as demonstrated by the current prevalence of illegal levels of NO2 pollution. The Environmental Improvement Plans required by the Bill are not sufficient to guarantee effective action. The planning framework must include timetabled, impact-assessed measures that ensure the necessary improvements are made.
- Enforcement – The new Office for Environment Protection (‘The OEP’) should have equivalent powers to those currently granted to the European Court of Justice to enforce air pollution limits. As well as enforcing new limits on PM2.5 pollution, the OEP should be responsible for enforcing limits on NO2 and other air pollutants.
In addition to the above recommendations, the Alliance strongly advocates a shift from sedentary modes of travel to active modes of travel.
For references for the figures quoted above, and to read our full response, click here.