Government must include WHO air quality limits in Environment Bill

27 May 2021, Ross Matthewman

CIEH has welcomed the return of the UK Government’s flagship Environment Bill to the House of Commons, but has called for the swift adoption of World Health Organization (WHO) standards to tackle air pollution.

The Environment Bill, which has been delayed multiple times, was finally brought back to the House of Commons for its Report Stage and Third Reading yesterday.

The Government has tabled new amendments to the Bill including additional legally binding target for species for 2030 and a new peat action plan. However, a string of additional amendments from opposition parties aimed at strengthening the Bill were voted down. 

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.

Poor air quality has long been a serious concern, with the UK having previously been referred to the European Court of Justice due to air pollution levels and heavily criticised for a lack of action. With poor air quality causing over 400,000 early deaths each year across Europe, the UK, along with five other EU countries, had been given a final warning by the European Commission in January 2018.

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 further highlighted the need for urgent action.

Julie Barratt, CIEH President, said:

“We are happy to see the Environment Bill being finally brought back to Parliament.

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.

As such, we have been calling on the Government to commit to World Health Organisation targets for reducing air pollution. We are deeply disappointed that this has not yet been done.

The Government has a second chance when the Bill moves to the House of Lords and we will be calling on peers from across the political spectrum to raise the essential issue of air pollution.

The recent coroner’s report attributing the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah partially to air pollution should be a wakeup call. Action has to be taken. 

We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”

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