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Media reaction: 7 September 2021
In a vote yesterday evening, the UK House of Lords defeated the government and demanded a more ambitious approach to tackle air pollution. Environmental lawyers ClientEarth said this was a “nothing short of a rebuke”.
Peers voted in favour of an amendment to the Environment Bill that would commit the government to reduce levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to within World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by 2030 at the latest.
UK legal limits for PM2.5 are currently twice as high as what the WHO recommends. Clean air campaigners have long been calling for more robust targets. In April this year, the coroner who found that air pollution contributed to the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah told the UK Government that aligning the UK’s legal limits with the WHO guidelines would prevent more people dying.
Katie Nield, a lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said: “Fine particulate matter is one of the most harmful pollutants there is – even at very low concentrations. The government has so far refused to commit to setting legal limits for this pollutant in line with World Health Organization recommendations, despite broad agreement from health experts, parliamentarians across all parties, local leaders and the general public that this is essential to protect people’s health.
“The vote in the House of Lords clearly shows that Peers do not believe that the Bill does enough as it stands to protect people from toxic air. It’s nothing short of a rebuke.”
The Environment Bill is expected to complete its passage through the House of Lords this month and then return to the House of Commons where MPs will consider all the new amendments.
Nield added: “For the amendment to be included in the final version of the Bill and make it on to our statute books, the government really has to take responsibility and show leadership on this public health emergency.”
The UK Government is thought to be aiming for the Bill to reach Royal Assent before COP26 in Glasgow starts at the beginning of November.
ClientEarth has previously won three cases against the UK Government over its failure to address the country’s chronic air pollution problem.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.