“Air pollution, as quoted by DEFRA, is now considered as being the top environmental risk to human health in the UK and fourth greatest threat to public health after cancer, heart disease and obesity.
The Clean Air Strategy (scheduled for release in March 2019) sets out the case for action, with goals and new enforcement powers at national and local level across all sectors of society.
A wide scale series of consultations amongst interested industries, NGOs and the health sector have started to take place, and it was one such event hosted by the London Sustainability Exchange that myself and fellow Community Champion Alistair went to in early August.
The event split the discussion of the draft Strategy into five sections:
1. Protecting the nation’s health
2. Clean growth and innovation
3. Action to reduce emissions from transport
4. Action to reduce emissions at home
5. Leadership at all levels.
We each could choose up to 3 areas to review and discuss in groups, with themes then collated and presented back to Defra as an official response.
As the Strategy was still in draft form most of the goals seemed to be very high level, one such example, included in the area of Protecting the nation’s health was to “Improve air quality by educating the public on how they can help”. As a result of such high level goals most of the discussions turned into formulating tactics, such as how cycling can be further encouraged with the installation of new cordoned off lanes/ tax breaks, introducing a form of red-amber-green labelling for air quality (akin to energy systems), and the introduction of levies to assist in reducing emissions in households (currently 38% of the UK’s particulate matter stems from solid fuel usage in open fires and stoves).
Both of us loved being part of the mini focus groups, for me it proved somewhat of an education sitting with lifelong campaigners and listening to their proposals. I really hope that DEFRA listens to the feedback and shapes the Strategy into something that is ambitious and fast paced; the chapter we are now seeing the UK enter into needs swift movement!”