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Clean Air Strategy

Volume 652: debated on Monday 14 January 2019

Today, the Government published their ambitious Clean Air Strategy, building upon an extensive consultation process last year.

Air pollution is the UK’s top environmental risk to human health, ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity in its impact. It causes more harm than passive smoking. The actions outlined in this Clean Air Strategy will save society £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030.

This comprehensive strategy shows how we will tackle air pollution and meet our legal targets to reduce five key, damaging air pollutants (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide) by 2020 and 2030. The new strategy also sets out our world-leading ambition to reduce public exposure to particulate matter in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. The Government are committed to halve the number of people living where concentrations of particulate matter are above this limit by 2025, but we want to go even further than this, and so we will set a new, ambitious, long-term air quality target.

Transport is a significant source of some types of air pollution, and we are already acting to tackle emissions from this source, with our N02 Plan, investing £3.5 billion in cleaner vehicle technology. The Government are also reaffirming their commitment to end the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040.

However, transport is not the only source of pollution; this strategy will reduce emissions coming from all sources. Burning wood and coal to heat in homes makes up 38% of the UK’s harmful particulate matter emissions. This is why we will ensure only the cleanest fuels will be available for sale and only the cleanest stoves will be available to buy and install by 2022. We will also make existing clean air legislation easier to enforce, and work with local authorities to increase the rate of upgrades of inefficient and polluting heating appliances.

The agriculture sector accounts for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia. Our Clean Air Strategy sets out the concerted action we will take to tackle ammonia from farming by supporting farmers to invest in infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions. We are also introducing new regulations which require farms to use low-emission farming techniques as well as regulations to minimise pollution from fertiliser use.

We will continue to support investment in clean air and, in partnership with UK Research and Investment (UKRI), we have launched a joint research programme worth £19.6 million to promote cleaner technologies. This will support the UK to continue to become world leaders in clean technology.

The Government want to help people live well for longer, and this strategy supports the Department of Health and Social Care’s prevention strategy, and the NHS 10-year plan. We have also improved how we count the cost of air pollution, publishing revised damage costs today, which show the cost to society of air pollution is greater than previously thought. These costs reflect our improved understanding of the long-term health impacts of air pollution, incorporating the costs of additional health conditions such as heart disease and childhood asthma. This new work means that the estimated benefits of this strategy are even larger than previously anticipated.

This strategy is a key part of our 25-year plan to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. The Government will shortly bring forward an Environment Bill which will include primary legislation on air quality.

Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution and our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers and industry to implement lasting solutions to reduce air pollution, and the importance of each of us taking action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air for the next generation.