Jun 21

Marking Clean Air Day with a pledge for action

clean air day logoIt is time for new legislation to build on the Clean Air Act introduced 25 years ago under the Labour government.

The World Health Organisation has described air pollution as a ‘public health emergency.’ Poor air quality has serious environmental and health impacts. A report to the United Nations human rights council in September 2017 raised concerns regarding the effects of air pollution on vulnerable groups in the UK, including the risk of ‘mortality, morbidity and disability’ to children.

Luciana clean airThe British Heart Foundation says that air pollution is now the largest environmental risk factor linked to deaths in England. Globally, coronary heart disease and stroke account for around three in every five deaths related to outdoor air pollution.

Existing legislation hasn’t kept pace with scientific advances which show the serious health threats posed by the smallest air pollutants. The government’s draft Clean Air Strategy fails to tackle the immediate problem and needs to go much further.

Here in Liverpool, where an estimated 650 deaths a year are linked to respiratory disease, the Labour-led council has launched the Breathe Liverpool plan to ensure that walking, cycling, electric vehicles and clean fuels dominate city life by 2025.

The council is also pressing the government for greater freedom to fund innovative air quality projects to encourage people to change or re-fit diesel cars, stronger planning powers to boost air quality and for a new Clean Air Act.

We need a new Clean Air Act to create challenging emissions reduction targets and help introduce a network of clean air zones backed by investment in greener, integrated public transport systems.

The UK should be at the forefront of developing, manufacturing and using ultra low emission vehicles as well as retro-fitting thousands of diesel buses in areas with the most severe air quality problems.

Poor air quality is a national public health scandal that is costing lives and putting increased pressure on the NHS.

The government has been hauled before the courts repeatedly over its failure to act and improve air quality. Despite the scale of the problem, the government’s plans amount to more consultations and pushing the problem onto local authorities to solve.

On Clean Air Day we need to recommit to a new Clean Air Act that would help us all breathe easier.