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Thursday, 15 June 2023, Ciaran Donaghy
CIEH Member Matthew Clark yesterday gave evidence to the Environmental Audit parliamentary Select Committee on the issue of indoor and outdoor air quality targets.
Matthew Clark, ACIEH and member of the CIEH Environmental Protection Advisory Panel, gave evidence alongside Professor Jim McManus of the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH). Their evidence highlighted the important role local authorities have in addressing air pollution as an urgent public health issue, the success of certain measures such as Clean Air Zones (CAZs), and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs), the need to better address indoor air pollution, as well as making the case for greater monitoring and funding for local authorities to better understand local air quality and enforce regulations.
On the success of CAZs and ULEZs, Matthew informed the committee that “The impact of CAZs/ULEZs is well documented…we know that levels of NO2 fell in Bath by 21% between 2019 and 2021 when they introduced a CAZ and there was a 13% reduction in NO2 in the first six months in Birmingham when they introduced their CAZ…and we will continue to get new evidence going forward.”
Matthew informed the Committee that the single biggest source of PM2.5 is domestic burning and it is on the increase, with research from 2019 suggesting that 40% of people burning are doing so for aesthetic reasons. In terms of what he felt the solution to this urgent issue was, he said “The first step here has to be a concerted effort to inform the public about these devices…the first thing is information to educate and that might help stave off the ever-growing increase of solid fuel appliances that are being installed every year.” In response to a question as to whether domestic wood burners could be licensed, Matthew said “a licensing could work, you could base that…on the polluter pays method which we see through a permitting regime. However, that needs to come with the allocation of resources of whoever will be the regulator, and I suggest that will be local authorities, but that will be a heavy burden for local authorities.”
CIEH are delighted that one of our members had the opportunity to engage in this issue, as the UK Health Security Agency cite poor air quality as the ‘largest environmental risk to public health in the UK’ with the UK government estimating that air pollution is responsible for over 40,000 deaths in the UK each year. This issue is of great importance to CIEH members, with a recent survey finding 73% citing air quality as a policy priority area for CIEH.
This opportunity is the culmination of a long-standing CIEH campaign to improve air quality. CIEH have contributed to several government consultations such as Defra’s Draft Air Quality Strategy, the National Air Pollution Control Programme, Review of Local Air Quality Management Policy Guidance. CIEH spokespeople have appeared on BBC Radio 4 raising the issue of agricultural sources of pollution, with CIEH members discussing domestic wood burning in the New Statesman. CIEH’s CEO and members also met with Professor Sir Chris Whitty on indoor and outdoor air quality, following his 2022 annual report which focused on the subject.
CIEH members have also influenced the air quality policy agenda in the devolved regions, with CIEH members giving evidence to the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee in the Welsh Senedd.
Matthew Clark, ACIEH, Air Quality Programme Manager for Hertfordshire County Council, and CIEH Environmental Protection Advisory Panel member, said:
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to make the case to government, on behalf of CIEH members, on what more needs to be done to tackle local air pollution.
Clean Air Day not only affords us all the chance to highlight the public health effects of air pollution, but also make the case that local authorities play such an important role in tackling this issue.
We have been invited to make further representations to the Committee to aid their report, and I look forward to working with CIEH colleagues on the Environmental Protection Panel in making suitable recommendations.”
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health at CIEH, said:
“On Clean Air Day, we couldn’t be more pleased to promote the fact that CIEH member voices are getting right to the heart of government, influencing the political agenda, and making the case for cleaner air.
Matthew did a fantastic job in highlighting the role local authorities play in addressing local air pollution, making the case for greater enforcement powers and funding to ensure local authorities are equipped with the tools they need to protect public health.
As a member of our Environmental Protection Panel, Matt, alongside other CIEH members of this panel, play a crucial role in ensuring CIEH member voices not only influence CIEH policy, but government policy too.”