“Thousands of lives a year would be saved by reducing air pollution to safe levels under draft legislation to be presented to parliament.
The Air Pollution Bill would require the government to adopt tighter limits based on World Health Organisation recommendations, a key objective of the Times Clean Air for All Campaign.
Ministers would, for the first time, have a clear duty to act on a problem that cuts short the lives of 36,000 people a year, costs the economy £20 billion annually in healthcare and impact on businesses and, if left unchecked, would cause 2.4 million new cases of disease in the next 16 years.
The bill, which has been drawn up by a coalition of environmental groups and air pollution scientists, will be discussed tomorrow at the parliamentary launch of the Clean Air for All campaign. It would also require air pollution monitors to be installed in every postcode and outside every school and hospital.
It will be tabled as a private member’s bill in either the Commons or the Lords and is expected to gain support from MPs and peers of all the main parties. Its supporters hope the government will adopt the measures in the forthcoming Environment Bill.
The government has pledged that the Environment Bill will contain measures to reduce air pollution but has yet to confirm what they will be. Michael Gove said in one of his last speeches as environment secretary that he wanted “a legally binding commitment on particulate matter so that no part of the country exceeds the levels recommended by the WHO”. Theresa Villiers, his successor, has yet to set out her plans.
The Times launched its Clean Air for All Campaign in May with a manifesto calling for a new Clean Air Act to confer a legal right to unpolluted air for everyone in the UK. The campaign also calls for sales of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030.
The Air Pollution Bill has been drawn up by Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), a charity that has been working on it with the UK100 group, representing mayors of big cities, and other green groups, including Client Earth and Green Alliance.
Baroness Worthington, EDF’s director and a crossbench peer, said: “The current approach to lowering pollution isn’t working.”
The bill would also require the government to publish an annual report on progress and establish an independent body to advise the government on how to meet air pollution targets.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We know the impact air pollution has on communities around the UK, which is why we are taking urgent action to improve air quality.”
Source: The Times