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We joined other climate change to urge DEFRA to meet WHO air pollution targets

Published Friday 17 June, 2022
Last updated on Friday 17 June, 2022

Swale Borough Council has joined local and regional authorities from across the UK in signing a letter to the UK Environment Secretary George Eustice pledging to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) targets on deadly air pollution ten years ahead of the Government's 2040 deadline.

The pledge comes as a new report from the National Audit Office, released today, reveals the Government is failing to deliver on air quality standards.

The letter, signed by the council, is a joint response to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consultation on environmental targets, coordinated by UK100.

UK100 is the UK's only network of ambitious local authority leaders committed to clean air and net zero. Earlier this month, the network released a new Clean Air Net Zero report looking at the need to align clean air and net zero policies.

The latest intervention comes just weeks after the UK announced plans to halve the legal limits for PM2.5,  the most dangerous air pollutant, by 2040. But local leaders believe the Government needs to do more.

PM2.5 is the deadliest form of particulate matter pollution, describing the mixture of solids and liquids, including carbon, chemicals, sulphates, nitrates, mineral dust, and water in the air.

The particles are tiny enough to be invisible to the naked eye and small enough to pass through the lungs, get carried in the bloodstream, and pass into other organs.

Generally, they come from the combustion of solid and liquid fuels, power generation, domestic heating and road vehicles.

Recognising that PM2.5 pollution is linked to thousands of preventable deaths every year in the UK, the letter from local leaders calls on the Government to address the limitations of local authority powers and introduce a national policy to tackle the different sources of PM2.5.

The letter also urges ministers to:

●       Bring forward the UK's PM2.5 target to 2030 in line with the WHO’s interim guideline and provide local leaders with the powers and funding to meet this target.

●       Put in place a longer-term target to meet the WHO’s updated guideline for PM2.5 - half of the interim limit.

●       Establish a national public awareness campaign around the health impacts of air pollution and its causes, including domestic wood burning.

Cllr Tim Valentine, vice chair of the environment committee at the council, said:

“We’ve joined 20 other councils across the country to ask the Government to do more to tackle air pollution.

“We’re doing everything we can to clean up the air in Swale, but there is no safe limit of PM2.5 pollutants, which is why it’s crucial we meet the WHO's target of 5µg/m3 by 2030, and not the government’s target of 10µg/m3 - double the recommended guidelines.

“We want our residents to be able to breathe easily and safely and we want to work with the Government to ensure this happens."

Polly Billington, Chief Executive, UK100, adds:

“Local and regional leaders throughout the country, and across the political divide, are desperate to clean up the air in their towns and cities. But they can't do it alone. I urge the Environment Secretary to listen to this plea from local authorities and give them the support they need to take decisive action.”

"As the National Audit Office’s report makes clear, the Government needs to urgently step-up its action on clean air and bring forward its goal to meet WHO guidelines. At the same time, ministers need to enable local leaders to meet their air quality ambitions by providing the powers and support they need to implement regional air pollution plans that mean residents can breathe easily.”

"Action on clean air comes with added benefits. Many of the measures that will help the UK progress on cleaning up our air will also accelerate action on Net Zero, cut health costs, enhance our economy and improve everyone’s quality of life."