Government has taken â€˜some positive stepsâ€™ in its efforts to tackle air pollution, but local authorities must be given greater powers to protect public health â€“ a major health body has claimed.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has outlined five priority recommendations for government to implement in order to address dangerous levels of air pollution in towns and cities.
These come in a paper issued to assess progress being made to tackle air pollution two years after the publication of the RCPâ€™s â€˜Every Breath We Takeâ€™ report, a landmark study into the impact of air pollution in the UK (see airqualitynews.com story).
According to RCP, the governmentâ€™s 2017 air quality plan was a â€œmissed opportunity to show the commitment and leadership required to tackle the UKâ€™s dirty air crisisâ€.
RCP notes that since the publication of the 2016 report, â€˜evidence of the scale of the air pollution crisis has continued to growâ€™ as has criticism of the governmentâ€™s response to the â€˜health emergencyâ€™ created by pollution.
It adds: â€œThe government has taken some positive steps to address air pollution, such as the promise to ban the sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040. This will deliver important public health benefits in the long term. However, we need immediate action that will deliver health benefits in the shortest time possible.
â€œPockets of innovative policy and clear political will to effect change are emerging in local governments and cities across the UK. For example, the mayor of London has made tackling air pollution a priority and the cityâ€™s Clean Air Action Plan for London introduced the â€˜T-chargeâ€™ for the most polluting vehicles and an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).â€
RCP adds that the UKâ€™s withdrawal from the EU presents threats and opportunities for the air pollution policy agenda, and calls for government to legislate in a number of areas it believes action is required.
This includes committing to new air pollution targets based upon World Health Organization guidelines; a UK-wide framework for the expansion of Clean Air Zones in towns and cities, and; greater powers for local authorities to act when pollution levels are elevated.
Full recommendations include:
Every Breathe We Take – 2018 Progress Report