Environment Bill must deliver stronger, legally binding air quality targets, says ClientEarth
Pressure is piling on the Government to take urgent action on air pollution, including stronger, legally binding targets, in the forthcoming Environment Bill.
Announced in the Queen’s speech today, the Environment Bill will be introduced later this month in Parliament and will see measures introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats.
The Bill will also see the creation of a new Office for Environmental Protection, as announced last December, which will have the power to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Simon Alcock, head of public affairs and campaigning at ClientEarth, said: “We welcome the Government’s recognition that we need new laws to clean up our dirty air. These new laws need to deliver stronger, legally binding targets to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants that we’re breathing. The real test is the level these targets are set at and the date they will be met by. We also need to see a legally binding commitment to meet World Health Organization (WHO) guideline levels by 2030 at the latest. The Government should commit to this now. Without it, many people across the UK will continue to pay with their health.
“We are also pleased to see the introduction of an independent regulator that safeguards environmental standards. The real question is whether this new body is independent and has the strong legal teeth needed to protect our environment.”
His comments come as a coalition of leading health, transport and environment organisations calls for urgent government action on clean air, including meeting WHO guideline levels for particulate matter by 2030, the establishment of a new ‘clean air duty’ that requires all public bodies to actively play their part in delivering solutions to tackle air pollution, and for the right to clean air to be enshrined into domestic law.
Last week saw London mayor Sadiq Khan join 34 other city mayors around the world to pledge to reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in line with WHO guidelines by 2030. By signing the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, the mayors have recognised that breathing clean air is a human right and committed to work together to form an unparalleled global coalition for clean air.
Meanwhile, a new survey has revealed that almost two-thirds of the British public think that the UK Government should introduce legally binding targets to lower air pollution to match guidelines set by the WHO.
The YouGov polling, commissioned by ClientEarth, also showed that over two-thirds would support Class D charging Clean Air Zones and a clear majority think that the government should provide incentives like diesel scrappage schemes, grants for electric vehicles and tax rebates to make cleaner vehicles more affordable.