31 January 2017 17.23 GMT
Air pollution is a crisis that “plagues” the UK, particularly children, according to the UN’s special rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes.
Baskut Tuncak, who was appointed by the UN human rights council and completed a 15-day mission to the UK on Tuesday, said there was an “urgent need for political will by the UK government to make timely, measurable and meaningful interventions”.
Most air quality zones in the UK breach legal limits and the government has twice had its plans to tackle the issue declared illegal by the courts. It is now developing a new plan but Tuncak’s strong criticism is a further embarrassment for ministers.
“The UK has repeatedly not been among the more progressive EU member states on debates over the development of stronger health and environmental protections,” he said.
Tuncak also said Brexit was a threat to environmental protection given that most current regulations come from the EU. “I found no indication of a political commitment to retaining current standards for health and environmental protection,” he said.
The government says it will transpose all EU laws into UK law via a “great repeal act”, but the environment secretary Andrea Leadsom has said that about a third of the 800 pieces of EU environmental legislation would be difficult to transfer. A cross-party committee of MPs said earlier in January that the government must pass a new Environmental Protection Act before it begins the formal process of leaving the EU.