Environment

The new Clean Air Strategy is the Government's 'Green Brexit' vision

But green campaigners have described the strategy as "severely lacking in detail" and missing radical action on vehicle pollution

Air pollution

The UK government is targeting farmers and people with wood burners in its new Clean Air Strategy, which it says will reduce the amount of cancer-causing air pollution by 2030.

But critics have described the plans – which ministers say will make the UK the first major economy to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines – as “severely lacking in detail”.

Focusing on particulate matter known as PM2.5, a carcinogenic which emanates from open fires and domestic stoves, the strategy set out by environment secretary Michael Gove is vague: it claims PM2.5 exposure will drop to below the WHO standard across “much of the country”, and does not lay out a schedule of work to achieve the “world leading” goal.

The effort will include regulating which stoves are available by 2022 and banning the sale of toxic fuels for domestic stoves, plus potentially phasing out the sale of house coal.

Farmers will be required to adapt their farming techniques, with training and support made available to help them reduce their ammonia emissions.

Farming minister George Eustice said future agriculture policy will involve financial rewards and incentives for farmers reducing their contribution to air pollution. Further details for the strategy have been promised for “early 2019”.

The strategy includes no new action to tackle vehicle pollution and instead repeats the government’s vow to stop petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said: “While the WHO says standards should be reached by 2030, there is no date set in the government’s strategy and the plan is severely lacking in detail on how such a target could be met.

“The biggest problem with our currently illegal NO2 air pollution is road transport – and cars and other vehicles are also a key source of particle pollution, both from exhausts and also brake and tyre wear. If the government is serious about protecting our health, and the health of the planet, it must scrap new road building plans which would add to the problem, and phase out petrol and diesel vehicles faster than planned.”

According to NHS figures, air pollution is to blame for nearly 30 per cent of non-communicable diseases in England.

Ministers have said the strategy will go further than current EU legislation – which the UK has repeatedly failed to comply with– does to cut pollution. No information has been released regarding how ministers will be held to account if environmental rules are flouted once the country is no longer subject to EU law.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace UK said: “The government is saying all the right things about the huge cost in human lives, and money, which our appalling air quality imposes, and gives an important signal about tighter long term targets. But there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between this recognition of the urgency of the problem and the extremely relaxed approach to solving it.

“Even after recognising the seriousness of the air pollution crisis the government is proposing nothing new to tackle pollution from road transport. A 2040 phase out date for diesel and petrol vehicles is effectively saying that yes, your grandchildren deserve clean air, but your children will just have to go on breathing toxic fumes so as not to disrupt the car industry’s sales forecasts.

“We’re calling on the government to bring forward its diesel and petrol vehicle phase out date to 2030, bringing us in line with a host of nations such as Ireland, India and Israel. Alongside that we’re calling for the introduction of clean air zones to tackle air pollution across the country.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead
Conservation

'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead

Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back
Rewilding

Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned
Green transition

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned

How London's history-making beavers are adapting to life in the capital: 'They have a right to exist'
beavers
Environment

How London's history-making beavers are adapting to life in the capital: 'They have a right to exist'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know