Simon Alcock Head of UK Public Affairs at ClientEarth
The UK Government launched its Clean Air Strategy last week claiming that it wants to halve the number of people living in areas with particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) above guideline limits set by the World Health Organisation.
The strategy, which deals with several different types of pollutants, contains some impressive ambitions.
Among the other attention-grabbing proposals, are several aimed at wood burning stoves, and ammonia from farming, both of which contribute to the dangerous particulate matter pollution that the government is looking to reduce.
But it fails to tackle a key source of our dirty air, which is responsible for much of the air pollution in our towns and cities.
We have are illegal and harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide across the country. In towns and cities where this is at illegal levels, it comes mostly from road transport, particularly diesel vehicles. Legal limits for NO2 were introduced in 2010.
In its strategy of last week, the government mentions a plan, which it says deals with this problem.
Unfortunately, this plan has seen the government pass the buck to Local Authorities to develop their own proposals to reduce pollution. Some of these Local Authorities have already missed the deadlines set for them by ministers, so the claim that this problem is being dealt with rings a bit hollow.
We need a proper national plan to deal with illegal levels of air pollution at a national level. It should include a national network of clean air zones and help for people to move to cleaner forms of transport.
Last week’s strategy highlighted how much will be saved in healthcare costs by cleaning up our air. The government needs to provide money to deliver policies like scrappage schemes. We also need tax incentives to make it cheaper to buy a cleaner vehicle and make the car companies retrofit vehicles to cut emissions.
The government’s strategy outlines some positive steps. Now we need to see some action.
CleanEarth join us at last year’s Transport Practitioners’ Meeting. Missed the panel? The Call for Papers for the 17th annual meeting is now open. Find out more information at www.transportconference.co.uk