Joint inquiry launched into UK air pollution crisis

Four select committees have collectively launched a joint inquiry on air quality to scrutinise cross-government plans to tackle urban pollution hotspots.

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit Committee, Health, and Transport Committees will hold four evidence sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health and environmental impacts of outdoor air pollution.

The committees will consider how effectively government policies take account of the health and environmental impacts of poor air quality and whether revised plans for tackling nitrogen dioxide levels sufficient to meet the High Court and European Commission requirements for urgent action.

Additionally, they will question if the revised plan sets out effective and proportionate measures for reducing emissions from transport, and whether there is sufficient cross-government collaboration to ensure the right fiscal and policy incentives are adopted to ensure air quality targets are achieved.

The government has lost two UK court cases concerning its plans to meet EU limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air and is facing increasing demands to tackle air pollution problems across the country. The High Court has ordered the government to publish a draft new clean air plan to tackle NO2 by 24 April, with a final plan by 31 July.

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health Committee, said: "Poor air quality is affecting on the health of millions of people across the UK because of the impact of invisible particulates and other pollutants. Our joint inquiry will include an examination of the scale of the harm caused and the action necessary to tackle it."

Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, added: "The UK courts have twice told the Government to raise its game to clean up our filthy air because of European Union legislation. My Committee has repeatedly pressed Ministers on their plans for improving air quality as we leave the EU; we hope that the new air quality plan, and this unique joint inquiry, will give us more clarity."

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