taxis queue by leafy park in London

Cross-party MPs demand urgent action to deal with UK “air quality catastrophe”

Four select committees have released the findings of a joint inquiry into UK air quality, calling for a series of measures to address illegal pollution. It is a humiliating read for the UK government.

Responding to the report, ClientEarth Head of Public Affairs Simon Alcock said: “We are delighted that this landmark report from a cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to urgently take further action to fix the dangerous air pollution in our towns and cities. It highlights the lack of national leadership by successive governments to tackle this public health crisis – it was supposed to be resolved over eight years ago.

“Car manufacturers must also be held responsible for the failings that have contributed to illegal levels of pollution across the country. Requiring them to contribute to a clean air fund is a perfect response to help consumers who were misled into thinking their vehicles were cleaner than they actually are.

“People across the UK deserve to be able breathe clean air and the government must now make that happen, with no further time-wasting, by implementing these recommendations.”

In a speech at the Green Brexit conference today, ClientEarth CEO James Thornton will call on the government to move forward the UK’s 2040 ban on the sale of combustion engine vehicles.

Thornton said: “Scotland has already committed to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. Bringing forward the combustion engine ban in the rest of the UK would give a very clear signal to the automotive industry that they need to switch to cleaner modes of transport as soon as possible.”

The Chief Executive of the environmental law group argued that the UK can become a leader on sustainable transport by increasing the number of electric charging points to every 10 parking spaces for new non-residential buildings. He also suggested looking to California and China, where manufacturers have been made to ensure a percentage of vehicles sold are low-emission. This would not cost the taxpayer and would help the UK compete on an international stage.

Recommendations from the report

The report calls for a number of solutions that ClientEarth has publicly called for, including in the evidence given at the Committee hearing on 23 November 2017:

  1. Significant improvements to the ‘unlawful’ 2017 Air Quality Plan to ensure illegal and harmful levels of air pollution are urgently addressed across the UK
  2. A faster and more effective approach to in implementing charging Clean Air Zones (CAZs), including mandating CAZs where they are needed
  3. Mitigation measures such as a targeted scrappage scheme that helps those on low incomes and small businesses move on to cleaner forms of transport
  4. Proper support for all local authorities with air pollution problems
  5. More accurate modelling of air pollution at a local level
  6. A new Clean Air Act that enshrines people’s right to breathe clean air and commits safer World Health Organisation targets into UK statute
  7. Require the automobile industry to contribute to a new clean air fund
  8. Bringing forward the date by which manufacturers must end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars, in line with more ambitious commitments from around the world
  9. Initiate a national health campaign to highlight the dangers of air pollution
  10. Consultation on a new environmental watchdog as soon as possible
  11. Cross-Government strategy for all pollutants including fiscal policy, urban planning, public transport and climate change
  12. Introduce a car labelling scheme with an easily accessible online register of real-world emissions to help consumers make informed choices.
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Garry Knight