Government ‘dereliction of duty’ over missed air quality target deadline

As green organisations band together to criticise the Government’s failure to meet its own legal deadline for setting new air quality targets, UK100 adds its voice to the chorus of condemnation.

UK100 is the UK’s only local authority network dedicated to Net Zero & Clean Air action.

UK100 Chief Executive, Polly Billington, says, “The Government’s decision to ignore the legally-binding deadline to set new targets to reduce our exposure to deadly air pollution is a dereliction of duty.

“We welcomed The Environment Bill as a sign of hope that the Government was taking the air quality crisis seriously. The new Defra Secretary must act quickly — and decisively — to restore that trust.

“The plan, proposed in March, to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) limits on the deadliest pollutants by 2040 was already lacking ambition. And, in June, cross-party local and regional leaders from the UK100 network pledged to meet the WHO target in their regions by 2030. They called on the Government to, at least, match their ambition.”

The joint letter from cross-party mayors and local leaders was sent on Clean Air Day, which coincided with a report from the National Audit Office that exposed the Government’s air failings.

The letter to the Environment Secretary was coordinated by UK100 and signed by more than 20 mayors and leaders, including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, UK100 Co-presidents Tracy Brabin and Richard Clewer, and Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green leaders from across the country.

The letter urges the Defra Secretary to:

  Bring forward the UK’s air quality target to 2030 in line with the WHO’s interim guideline and provide local leaders with the powers and funding to meet this target.

  Put in place a longer-term target to meet the WHO’s updated guidelines — half of the interim limit.

  Establish a national public awareness campaign around the health impacts of air pollution and its causes, including domestic wood burning.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “We’ve done the research, we’re taking the world-leading action, we know that here in London we can achieve the Government’s target for PM2.5 a decade earlier than they are proposing by introducing measures proven to be effective. There is no reason for national government not to match the scale of our ambition for the health of Londoners.”

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire and UK100 Co-president, added, “Within West Yorkshire, we’re doing everything in our power to clean up the air – including investing in electric buses, electric vehicle charging points and helping people to walk and cycle more. But one in 20 deaths in our region is linked to poor air quality and that is why it’s crucial that we meet the WHO’s target for PM₂.₅ by 2030.”

Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council and UK100 Co-president, said: “It isn’t just our big cities that have air quality problems. There are parts of Wiltshire which are impacted, for example, Westbury where lorries constantly run on the A350 directly outside of people’s front doors.”

“Councils have some ability to influence pollution, but we need more support from government legislation to reduce all forms of particulate pollution. Some of our problems are on the A36, a road managed by National Highways, which also means that government assistance is critical to tackling those issues. If we are to properly act as good stewards of the environment, we need to look to reduce pollution wherever we can.”

Polly added, “I urge the Environment Secretary to listen to the plea from local and regional leaders across the country who are desperate to clean up the air in their towns and cities. They can’t do it alone.”

“The Government needs to urgently step up its action on clean air and bring forward its goal to meet WHO guidelines. At the same time, ministers need to enable local leaders to meet their air quality ambitions by providing the powers and support they need to implement regional air pollution plans that mean residents can breathe easily.”

UK100’s CANZ report was recently cited by the Public Accounts Committee Tackling local air quality breaches report calling on the Government to take a more integrated approach to air quality action.

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