The Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has announced several measures in today’s (September 4) Spending Review to boost Britain’s air quality.
The funding announced in the House of Commons today includes £30m to help councils lower their nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions and £200m for upgrading bus services across the UK.
While local authorities have welcomed the funding boost, health and environmental groups have criticised the announcement, saying the funding ‘falls a long way short’ of what is required.
‘A healthy environment is a precondition for a healthy population – that’s why we’ve set out an ambitious 25-year plan for the UK’s natural environment. And we go further today,’ Javid said in his speech in the House of Commons.
‘Leaving the EU provides an opportunity to set world-leading environmental standards, and we’re giving Defra £432m of funding to do so. We’re providing £30m of new money to tackle the crisis in our air quality.’
The £30m for air quality forms part of the funding settlement for Defra, which saw a 3.3% increase in real terms to its resource budget.
This new money will provide additional funding for local authorities who have been directed to tackle their NO2 exceedances, a Treasury official confirmed to AirQualityNews.
This forms part of the government’s NO2 plan with councils under increasing pressure from the environmental law firm ClientEarth to hit their air quality targets.
However, the £30m pales in comparison to the £1.5bn requested by city leaders across England to create a ‘national network’ of 30 Clean Air Zones (CAZs) earlier this week.
The Department for Transport will also receive £200m of increased funding to ‘transform bus services’ across the country, funding ultra-low emissions buses and the trial of technologies such as new on-demand services to respond to passenger needs in real-time.
The Local Government Association welcomed the funding round, saying it provided councils with ‘much of the certainty’ they need about funding local services next year.
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the LGA, said: ‘We are delighted that today’s Spending Round has delivered a funding package of more than £3.5bn for our vital local services next year.
‘This is the biggest year-on-year real terms increase in spending power for local government in a decade and will allow councils to meet the rising cost and demand pressures they face in 2020/21.’
The British Lung Foundation was more cautious, hinting that the new air quality funding will not be sufficient to tackle the problem.
‘While we welcome any new funding to tackle #airpollution, this is a drop in the ocean compared with what we need to clean up our toxic air and protect our lungs,’ the charity tweeted.
Environmental charities were stronger in their criticism, saying the funding fell ‘a long way short’ of the £42bn needed every year to tackle the climate emergency, repeating their warning to the Chancellor in a letter ahead of the Spending Round.
Friends of the Earth‘s head of policy, Mike Childs, said: ‘Measures to cut climate-wrecking pollution, boost nature and clean up our filthy air have been starved of investment for far too long – they need far more than the few financial crumbs offered by the Chancellor today.’
Photo Credit – HM Treasury/Gov.uk