With air pollution being one of the biggest threats to public health in the UK, the government has unveiled an ambitious new strategy to clean up our air and save lives.
The Clean Air Strategy aims to cut the costs of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030.
The UK is setting a long-term target to reduce people’s exposure to particulate matter (PM), which the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as the most damaging pollutant. This comes on top of a commitment to halve the number of people living in areas breaching WHO guidelines on PM by 2025. The UK is the first major economy to adopt air quality goals based on WHO recommendations, going beyond EU requirements.
Launching the Clean Air Strategy, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “The evidence is clear. While air quality has improved significantly in recent years, air pollution continues to shorten lives, harm our children and reduce quality of life.
“We must take strong, urgent action. Our ambitious strategy includes new targets, new powers for local government and confirms that our forthcoming Environment Bill will include new primary legislation on air quality.
“While air pollution may conjure images of traffic jams and exhaust fumes, transport is only one part of the story and the new strategy sets out the important role all of us – across all sectors of work and society – can play in reducing emissions and cleaning up our air to protect our health.
“With a commitment to end the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040, the UK is going further than almost every other European nation in tackling emissions from cars. But air pollution does not just come from transport and the Clean Air Strategy sets out a programme of work across government, industry and society to reduce emissions coming from a wide range of sources.”
Gove highlighted that following a recent increase in popularity, domestic burning on stoves and open fires is now the single biggest source of particulate matter emissions which is why part of the new strategy will:
- introduce new legislation to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels
- ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022
- continue to explore how we can give local authorities powers to increase the rate of upgrades of inefficient and polluting heating appliances
- bring existing smoke control legislation up to date, and make it easier to enforce.
Brendon Harper, Air Quality Project Manager at Cross River Partnership, the sponsor of this year’s Special Judges Award for Innovation, welcomed the Clean Air Strategy’s increased focus on non-transport sources of emissions. “Alongside efforts to reduce transport emissions, it is vital that action is taken to reduce emissions from other sources – wood burning, agriculture, and industry,” he said. “Equally, it is crucial that we don’t treat air pollution as a problem that only the government can solve. Businesses and individuals all have vital roles to play from how they heat their workplaces and homes, to how they move themselves and goods around.”
Picture courtesy: Free photo 82976649 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com
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