Campaign seeks to enshrine right to clean air in law

Campaigners are seeking support for proposals which would see clean air established as a human right through new legislation.

Clean Air in London, the air quality campaign group led by Simon Birkett, and the Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones have collaborated to draw up a Draft Clean Air Bill, setting out a range of proposals to tackle air pollution.

Baroness Jenny Jones is backing proposals to establish clean air as a human right

The draft legislation is intended to complement similar proposals drawn up by the Labour MP Geraint Davies, who is attempting to steer his own Clean Air Bill through the law making process from the backbenches.

Mr Davies’ Clean Air Bill was introduced in November and is due to be debated in the House of Commons next week (February 2).

Both campaigns have agreed to work together in support of one another to force the government to introduce new clean air legislation.

The Draft Clean Air Bill proposes:

  • Clean air is a human right.
  • Action to tackle air quality and greenhouse gases, both outside and inside.
  • EA and Climate Change Committee to undertake reviews and advise on new standards to protect health and the environment.
  • Government required to pass resources to the EA, local authorities and others to fulfil their duties.
  • Establishment of the Citizens’ Commission for Clean Air with enforcement powers.
  • Updating the current Clean Air Act to make it easier to stop illegal wood burning in Smoke Control Areas.
  • Confirms the environmental provisions of prevention, precaution, “polluter pays” and sustainable development.

Commenting on the proposals, Baroness Jones, said: “I’m very excited by the idea of the Clean Air Bill making the right to healthy air a human right. We should all enjoy clean air even when we are working in a busy city, or living under an airport flight path. I hope that people will add their ideas to this Bill and support my attempt to push the government into action.

“There are big debates coming up this year as we need to replace the European environmental safeguards with tough UK laws and enforcement. I think this Bill contains some key proposals which could make us world leader for environmental regulation.”

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Mr Birkett, the founder and director of Clean Air in London, added: “The City of London Corporation created the first Clean Air Act in 1954. It was followed by the first national Clean Air Act on 5 July 1956. These pieces of legislation made the UK a world-leader in environmental action for more than 15 years.

“Much has changed since the 1950s. Instead of being worried about respiratory effects for the elderly from short-term exposure to visible coal and wood burning during the Great Smog of December 1952, scientists are warning now that everyone is affected by short and long-term exposure to air pollution to some extent with these exposures causing a wide range of health effects. Climate change is also a humanity-threatening prospect.

“Many people are calling, therefore, for a new Clean Air Act that will update legislation for modern fuels and technologies and address the need to reduce harmful air emissions to zero to protect human health and the environment. In Parliament, Geraint Davies MP has championed the idea of a new Clean Air Bill in Private Members bills on a number of occasions. He has also been highly successful in building cross-party political support for it.”

Related Links
Draft Clean Air Bill