An environmental think tank linked to the Labour Party has put its weight behind calls for new clean air legislation.
The think tank SERA – Labour’s Environment Campaign – last week (5 July) called for more action from government to tackle air pollution on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act which was brought into effect in 1956 to tackle deadly pollution in major British cities.
According to SERA, air pollution continues to cause the premature death of around 40,000 UK citizens at an economic cost of £54 billion to the public purse. The group is calling on government to show “commitmentâ€? to tackling the issue.
SERA has launched the ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ campaign in a bid to build support for a new Clean Air Act, encouraging research, shaping policy changes and actions including outlining the additional powers councils and administrations need, as well as working with and host discussions with key organisations.
Backing for the campaign has also been received from numerous Labour politicians at both a local and national level.
A petition has also been set up to call on the government to introduce a new Clean Air Act.
Launching the campaign Melaine Smallman and Jake Summer co-chairs of SERA said: “In a few months’ time, the UK government is once again being taken to the European Court for their failure to act on air pollution.
“In the meantime, thousands more people will die from the air they breathe. Back in the 1950s, as well as giving councils the powers to establish smoke control zones, the Clean Air Act also championed firm action including offering grants so households could concert their coal-burning fires to smokeless fuel.
“We need the same level of commitment to saving people’s lives today, which is why for the Clean Air Act 60th anniversary we announced ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ to help secure the Clean Air Act the UK so desperately needs.â€?
Politicians such as Leonie Cooper AM, chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee and SERA executive member, Councillor Gill Mitchell, deputy leader of Brighton and Hove council and chair of the environment, transport and sustainability committee and Alan Whitehead MP for Southampton Test have also backed the campaign.
Seb Dance MEP, a Labour member of the European parliament and a committee member on environment, public health and food safety, said: “The inconvenient truth for those who sought to argue the environmental benefits of a Britain outside the EU, is that air pollution has an unfortunate habit of not respecting borders: over one-third of the UK’s air pollution is blown in from across the English Channel.
“Cross-border co-operation and common laws across European countries will be crucial, whether Britain is part of the EU or not, in ensuring we do not end up with a race to the bottom on environmental standards. Any new regulation in the UK must reflect this reality.â€?
Matthew Pennycock the Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, has also backed the campaign.
He added: “Air pollution is the UK’s leading environmental health risk and needs concerted action at all levels.
“This should be supported through a new Clean Air Act, fit for purpose to enable us to breathe clean safe air across our country – particularly in our most polluted cities from London to Leeds, and Birmingham to Bristol and Brighton.â€?