Gove to launch new Clean Air Strategy

Environment Secretary Michael Gove will launch an ‘ambitious’ new clean air strategy to tackle air pollution, although critics have labelled it as ‘hugely disappointing’.

In addition to the government’s £3.5 billion plan to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July last year, the new Clean Air Strategy hopes to reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030.

The plan is expected to set out a goal to halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the WHO guideline limit of 10 ug/m3 by 2025 and introduce new primary legislation, which will give local government new powers to improve air quality.

Additionally, the strategy will establish plans for the government to provide a personal air quality messaging system to inform the public about the air quality forecast and put new investment into scientific research and innovation in clean technology.

Speaking at Imperial College, Gove said: “Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains - air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment. This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of government to improve air quality.

“Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution. Our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers, industry and households to develop innovative new solutions to reduce emissions. It also highlights how we can all take action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air.”

However, critics, led by the Labour Party, have said that the strategy os ‘hugely disappointing’, claiming it does little to tackle the dirty diesel vehicles that are the main source of toxic air in urban areas. Sue Hayman, the shadow environment secretary, said that the government is ‘dragging its feet by announcing yet another consultation’.

Martin Tett, Environment spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: “Councils recognise the impact that harmful emissions have on our communities and are determined to tackle it in all its forms. If the government’s air quality plans are to be successful, they not only need to be underpinned by local flexibility and sufficient funding but also accompanied by robust national action.

“It is also important that councils have the powers to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to clean air zones as well as expanded road and traffic measures. If we’re to truly tackle air pollution, we need government support to enable us to deliver effective local plans, and robust national action to help the country transition to low-emission vehicles and power generation.”

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