The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched its much-delayed Air Quality Plan. The plan has been widely condemned by air quality campaigners. Sheffield City Council has added its voice to the growing chorus of criticism.
Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Development and Transport said:
“Humans can live for three weeks without food and three days without water, but only three minutes without air. So you would expect the government to take illegal air pollution much more seriously. These are just vague targets, no details and no new investment. It is absolutely hopeless.
“The Government’s first duty is to protect its citizens, but there is nothing in this plan that gives us any confidence that this public health emergency is now going to be tackled.
“In Sheffield, we have developed credible, fair and bold plans to improve our air quality. Our city needs the government to support us to make the improvements we need, such as a new Clean Air Act, a national diesel scrappage scheme and proper investment in public transport strategy.”
Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said:
“Plans in the Clean Air Strategy will fail unless there are strong new protections in law to clean up our air as we leave the EU and sufficient financial support to make the changes a reality. Local leaders have consistently stated that Clean Air funding committed by Government to tackle air pollution is simply inadequate on three fronts: not enough funding for those local authority areas that Government has identified as having the most severe air quality challenges, insufficient funding available for tackling the wider sources of air pollution and limited financial support for national measures.”
Morten Thaysen, Clean Air Campaigner 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 acknowledging the seriousness of the air pollution crisis the government is proposing nothing new to tackle pollution from road transport. Ministers are idling on confronting a key source of toxic emissions. A 2040 phase out date for diesel and petrol 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.”
ClientEarth Head of Public Affairs Simon Alcock said:
“This strategy doesn’t address the huge problem of air pollution from transport that is harming people’s health. It instead claims that it is being dealt with by other plans. What it doesn’t say is that those plans are in total disarray, so once again the government has missed a golden opportunity to clean up illegal levels of air pollution across the country and start protecting people’s health.”
“We welcome the stated ambition to halve the number of people living in areas with pollution above World Health Organisation guideline levels but we now want to see tighter legally binding limits locked into legislation in the Environment Bill. Action to protect people’s health must be a requirement, not a ‘nice to have’.”