CIEH calls for firm commitment to WHO air pollution targets

18 June 2021, Ross Matthewman

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has welcomed the UK Government’s response to the coroner’s report into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, attributed partially to air pollution, but has called for a legally-binding commitment to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) targets.

The death of 9-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013, having been exposed to toxic levels of PM2. 5 and a second air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in excess of limits set by the WHO, has highlighted the need for immediate action to tackle the growing issue of poor air quality.

Responding on Thursday 17 June to the coroner’s report, the UK Government outlined plans to increase public awareness of air pollution and provide additional funding to local authorities as part of the Air Quality Grant scheme.

On particulate matter limits, the Government has now committed to a public consultation on new legal targets for PM2.5 and other pollutants early next year, with the aim of setting new targets in legislation by October 2022.

However, they have so far refused to commit to meeting WHO targets, simply stating that these targets will “inform its ambitions” going forwards.

As a member of the Healthy Air Campaign coalition of charities, CIEH has strongly campaigned for the UK Government to tackle the growing issue of dangerous levels of air pollution across the country.

With the Environment Bill currently progressing through the House of Lords, CIEH is working with partner organisations and Peers to table amendments to the Bill to enshrine WHO air quality targets in UK law.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at CIEH, said:

“The UK Government’s appreciation of the need to tackle the growing issue of poor air quality is welcome, and we are supportive of the steps they have taken so far.

However, we urge them to build on their ambitions and to formerly commit to meeting WHO targets in the Environment Bill.

With COP26 just around the corner, it is a vital piece of legislation and must be used to showcase the UK’s firm commitment to safeguarding and improving our environment into the future.

CIEH will be working with Peers in the House of Lords to amend the Bill and ensure that the vital issue of air quality is properly addressed.” 

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