The Government is putting thousands of lives at risk by trying to water down EU air quality rules instead of prioritising action to cut pollution on UK roads – according to Parliament’s green watchdog (the Commons Environmental Audit Committee). (1)
A report published by the Environmental Audit Committee this week concludes, “The costs to society from poor air quality are on a par with those from smoking and obesity.
“It is estimated that around 4,000 people died as a result of the Great Smog of London in 1952. That led to the introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1956. In 2008, 4,000 people died in London from air pollution and 30,000 died across the whole of the UK. The Government needs to act now, as Government did in the 1950s, to save the health of the nation.”
Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP, a member of the committee, said, “Ministers must take urgent action to improve air quality across the UK – and step up efforts towards a greener transport policy to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport”. (2)
According to the report, 40 out of the 43 Air Quality Monitoring Zones in the UK breached European Union safety limits for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions in 2010.
Keith M Ross of Swansea Green Party commented, “The data shows that there have been improvements across Wales since the previous report in 2008. However, there are no grounds for complacency.
“The DEFRA report on Air Quality Plans published in June shows that South Wales is not expected to meet the EU safety limits for NO2 emissions before 2020. And this target could be put at risk because the UK Government has requested a postponement of the compliance date for all 40 of the zones that currently do not meet the EU safety limits.”
The report by the Environmental Audit Committee recommends: “The Government must engage with local authority leaders to set out clearly the risks of failing to act on improving air quality. It must help local authorities to join up thinking across their departments to help identify where conflicts arise and where improvements can be made. This needs to be done in a way that influences decisions taken by local enterprise partnerships and planning authorities and takes account of new public health reforms. Government engagement with local authorities also needs to address establishing a national framework for low emissions zones.”
Keith Ross added, “Swansea Bay contains one of the most polluted areas of the UK in Port Talbot. Here in Swansea we have constant problems with traffic congestion and delays on our roads, all of which adds to poor air quality.
“The longer we delay the achievement of safe levels, the longer people in South Wales have to live with poor air quality and the impact on their health.“