Campaigners vent their frustration after the UK’s new clean air targets are revealed | Daily News Byte


Campaigners have accused the UK government of “dragging its heels” on air pollution after ministers published a new set of targets.

The UK government published a series of legally binding targets designed to protect the environment, clean air and rivers and promote nature in a written statement to the House of Lords on 16 December.

The targets include a commitment to reduce average PM 2.5 concentration levels in England to 10 µg m-3 or below by 2040, and another to reduce population exposure to PM2.5 by 35 percent compared to 2018 to be achieved by the same date.

In comparison, the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline for the annual average concentration of PM2.5 is 5 μg/m3.

And in October, the European Commission announced plans to reduce annual PM.2.5 concentrations from 25 µg/m³ to 10 µg/m³ in 2030.

Exposure to PM2.5 particles can cause diseases like asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Speaking at the COP15 conference in Montreal, the UK’s environment secretary, Therese Coffey, said the new targets were ambitious and would help tackle climate change.

But some clean air campaigners were less impressed.

Jemima Hartshorne, co-founder of campaign group Mums for Lungs, said “our children really do deserve better”.

“With a little commitment, ambition and action our toxic air can be cleaned up by the end of this decade,” she added.

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of the charity Asthma + Lung UK, said the government had been “dragging its heels in tackling air pollution for far too long”.

She said the 2040 target date was far short of what was needed and children would be “forced” to live, learn and play in toxic air pollution for another 18 years.

But she added that while it was disappointing the UK government could not be more ambitious, the fight for clean air was not over.

Woolnough said she hoped the government would now set out a plan on how the UK could reach the targets as quickly as possible and would introduce bolder interim targets.

Desiree Abrahams of the charity Global Action Plan said the UK government’s primary aim to tackle air pollution by 2030 should be to strive towards a target of 5µg/m₃, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Instead, she said the final proposed targets were “weak and ambitious”.

Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said that, if elected, his party would deliver the Clean Air Act and establish a legal right to breathe clean air.

The new targets come just weeks after campaigners reflected on the 70th anniversary of the Great Smog in London, when almost 4,000 people died.

Earlier this month, the UK government’s chief medical officer, Sir Chris Whitty, also published his annual report, which focused on air quality and air pollution risks this year.

In the report, he warned that “everyone is affected by air pollution”.

Other targets announced on December 16 include curbing sewage pollution, halting species decline by 2030 and restoring marine protected areas.

In response, a Defra spokesperson said that a A Defra spokesman said it perfectly Recognizes the importance of bringing down PM2.5 and sets new air quality targets “a clear and ambitious path” that will significantly reduce its impact on health.

“Our dual target approach will ensure a more than a third reduction in average exposure across the country by 2040 compared to 2018, as well as reductions where concentrations are highest,” the spokesperson added.

They also said the UK government’s Environment Improvement Plan, due to be published in January 2023, will set out further measures to improve air quality and meet long-term targets and interim targets for PM2.5.


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