I share your concern that dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution are impacting the health of millions of people across the country, including those most vulnerable in our communities. It is people living in the most deprived areas with the most toxic air who suffer disproportionately greater ill health.
I agree that it is simply the right thing to do to adopt into law enforceable targets as set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring air pollution down below harmful levels.
I have consistently supported efforts to include the WHO limits within the Environment Bill. At Committee Stage, the Labour Party voted to amend the Bill to include a target to meet the WHO guidelines on fine particulate matter by 2030. Disappointingly, however, the Conservative Government voted the amendment down. Additionally, in January 2021, I voted for an amendment to include these limits at the Report Stage of the Bill, but this too was voted down.
Air pollution is a silent crisis that has gone on for too long. I do not believe we are seeing the urgency from the Government that this public health emergency demands.
I support a Clean Air Act which would establish a legal right to breathe clean air by ensuring the law on air quality is at least as strict as the WHO guidelines. In 2016, a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 40,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution in the UK every year. I believe inaction on this issue has allowed catastrophic levels of air pollution to build up across the country.
Furthermore, I am concerned that the new environmental watchdog proposed in the Environment Bill lacks independence and that its powers and scope have been actively curtailed. Given that the Tory Government has been taken to court on multiple occasions for missing air quality targets, it is crucial that the regulator has teeth to make sure that targets are enforced.
I have raised the issue of air pollution in a Parliamentary Debate, you can view this here: https://twitter.com/TanDhesi/status/1397575621082066946 .
Thank you once again for contacting me and sharing your views. I can assure you that I will continue to call for urgent action to clean up our air, which will also help to decarbonise our economy.