With the EU issuing a ‘final warning’ to the UK over air pollution, a survey has found that 65 per cent of people support the introduction of an ambitious new Clean Air Act.
The European Commission sent the government a formal notice in January that threatened court action over illegally high levels of NO2 emissions, which are primarily caused by diesel engines.
Germany, France, Spain and Italy were also issued warnings.
The UK should have originally met its pollution limits by 2010. Many urban areas, including Greater Manchester, Merseyside and much of Lancashire are unlikely to comply with limits before 2020.
Defra, the department that deals with air pollution, has two months to respond to the notice. This brings it to just before its deadline to draft a new national air quality plan, which was imposed by the UK High Court in November 2016.
The updated air quality plan could reportedly include a diesel trade-in scheme, which could offer cashback or a discount in exchange for purchasing a low emission vehicle.
Clean Air Act
To catalyse action, a newly-formed coalition of health, environmental and transport organisations has launched a campaign calling for a new Clean Air Act.
The original act was first introduced to phase out coal from towns and cities following thousands of deaths in London in 1952.
More than sixty years later, around 40,000 deaths are still linked to air pollution each year. The campaign calls on a revamped Clean Air Act that will tackle modern sources of air pollution, accelerate the shift towards zero-emissions transport and strengthen existing legislation.
There is widespread public support for the move. A recent YouGov poll of 1,670 people found that 65 per cent would support a new Clean Air Act, with 58 per cent believing current levels of air pollution to be either harmful or very harmful to their health.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, a member of the new coalition, said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that air pollution is a public health crisis. We need a new fair and ambitious Clean Air Act, with targets to slash pollution levels across the country and plans to remove the most polluting vehicles from our towns and cities.”