Government ‘failing to protect people from air pollution’

Government ‘failing to protect people from air pollution’
The UK Government has so far failed to make its mark on the UK’s air pollution problem – despite a Supreme Court order demanding it do so.

New figures presented to the European Commission by Defra show 37 of 43 zones across the country still have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – with some even recording higher pollution rates than four years ago.

The number of regions with unacceptable levels was the same at the end of 2016 as it was in the year before, statistics described by environment lawyers ClientEarth as ones “the government would rather you didn't see”.

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NO2 is chiefly a by-product of road transport, primarily diesel vehicles.

Air pollution is linked to the early deaths of about 40,000 people a year in the UK and can lead to complications such as heart and lung disease, asthma and child development issues.

According to the newly-unveiled figures, parts of the country including London have seen reductions in the annual levels of NO2 over the past few years, although they remain way above legal limits.

Worryingly, others such as Portsmouth, Bristol, and Teesside, have all seen air pollution rise slightly since 2013.

As a central pillar of the Government’s air pollution reduction strategy, new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from UK sale by 2040.

But ClientEarth says Westminster is failing to do its job.

Chief executive James Thornton said: “These are statistics the government would rather you didn't see. They show how ministers are failing to protect people from air pollution which is blighting the lives of thousands of people across the country.

“We're deeply saddened to see how little progress was made last year and we will keep up the pressure to tackle this public health crisis, so that all of us – particularly young children – are protected from harmful pollution.”

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A Defra spokeswoman said: “We have put in place a £3 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“We will also end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution.”

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