Toxic air is killing thousands of us – Theresa May must act fast
Government plans to tackle air pollution are officially wholly inadequate. If industry were incentivised to help clean it up, we could all be winners
Wednesday 2 November 2016 17.50 GMT
The verdict is in and the government is guilty. In a landmark ruling, the high court has ruled that the plans to cut fatal air pollution are not only inadequate, but also illegal. To anyone who has seen these plans, the verdict is not surprising.
“If there was a toxin in our water system that we knew was killing thousands of people every year, the government would be coordinating Cobra meetings every day,” Matthew Pennycook, the Labour MP for Greenwich and chair of parliament’s cross-party group on air pollution, said after this morning’s ruling. But when it comes to the fatal toxins in our air, the government has not been coordinating any emergency meetings. It has been moving at a snail’s pace.
Air pollution is a known killer. The UK has been in breach of legal limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for years. The government’s own reports show air pollution is causing 40-50,000 deaths every year, by exacerbating respiratory illnesses, heart disease and asthma. New evidence suggests it is not only finding its way into our lungs, but into our brains too, where it may bring about the premature onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In the words of MPs from all parties, we are facing a public health crisis.