The UK requires a Clean Air Act â€œfit for the 21st Centuryâ€, Londonâ€™s deputy mayor for environment and energy Shirley Rodrigues has urged.
Delivering her keynote speech at airqualitynews.comâ€™s National Air Quality Awards ceremony in Westminster yesterday, Ms Rodrigues called for the legislation protecting air quality to be updated by ministers.
The current Clean Air Act dates back to 1956, ratified following the â€˜Great Smogâ€™ of London four years earlier. When asked at a recent Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee hearing whether she would review the Act, Secretary of State for Environment Andrea Leadsom said further legislation would â€œnot be neededâ€.
However, addressing delegates Ms Rodrigues said: â€œThis [Clean Air Act] should put in place the strongest possible legal protections to ensure the existing legal limits are retained and not undone by the decision to Brexit. It should unlock the innovations of cities across the country by freeing us to tackle air pollution from all sources.â€
The call came as Ms Rodrigues laid out the Mayor of London Sadiq Khanâ€™s plans for tackling air pollution in the capital, which includes launching the second phase of his air quality consultation.
The document proposes bringing forward an expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone for London to 2019 and establishing an emissions surcharge for older polluting vehicles in the capital from next year (see airqualitynews.com story).
However, Ms Rodrigues warned this work could be â€œoffsetâ€ by the governmentâ€™s decision to back construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport in the west of the city. Sadiq Khan is understood to be challenging the decision.
Ms Rodrigues said that any future air quality measures should be considered within the framework of the UKâ€™s Air Quality Plan â€“ which a High Court Judge ordered the government to redraft last week.
The Court ruled that in its present state, the Plan is not sufficient to meeting EU-set limits on nitrogen dioxide by 2020.
Ms Rodrigues added: â€œWe believe this is a rare opportunity for government to implement a transformative new approach. We believe the new plan must be legally compliant, effective, comprehensive and most of all fully funded. We donâ€™t believe the government should pass the burden back to local authorities to achieve compliance and the government has a number of powerful policy levers. Theyâ€™re the ones who are going to help us achieve compliance as quickly as possible.â€