The government must put improving air pollution at the ‘core’ of the post-pandemic recovery, according to a new report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA).
The new Air Quality Report, which draws on evidence taken from health experts, local councils and campaign groups urges the Government to strengthen its commitment to clean air by amending the Environment Bill, which is now delayed until autumn.
The MPs are calling on the government to set a specific target to reduce levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other key pollutants such as NO2 and ammonia to be in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) targets.
The report also highlights that there is an urgent moral case for improving air quality, with a growing body of evidence highlighting that disadvantaged communities, who contribute the least to air pollution, suffer the most from its effects.
The MPs are also calling on the government to introduce a long-term funding structure so that local councils can deliver their duties to improve local air quality, they also call for a new public communication campaign which will encourage a return to public transport once levels of covid-19 have fallen sufficiently.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said: ‘Every year, an estimated 64,000 deaths are linked to air pollution disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities. In rebuilding after the pandemic, we have a moral duty to put improving air quality at its core.
‘While the Clean Air Strategy is a step in the right direction, the Government needs to be more ambitious. Before the Environment Bill comes back, commitments to reduce the levels of toxic particulates that cause the most harm must be strengthened – and targets on reducing the health impacts of air pollution included too.
‘We were quick to return to our old ways following the spring lockdown, with pollution levels bouncing back by the summer. The Government has rightly banned the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, but we need more work to help accelerate towards a greener, cleaner future, so that commuting less and using electric vehicles more will be a real option for the majority.’