For once, cars aren't the only thing on the agenda.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove is announcing an ‘ambitious’ new plan to tackle air pollution in towns and cities across the UK.
The Clean Air Strategy is the latest chapter in the government’s efforts to reduce the amount of particulate matter in British air, following last year’s announcement of a £3.5 billion plan to reduce air pollution from vehicles.
According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), air pollution is the fourth-biggest threat to public health after cancer, obesity and heart disease.
The new scheme targets a 50 percent reduction in the number of people living in locations where the concentration of particulate matter is greater than the World Health Organisation guideline limit.
Under the scheme, the government will continue to target the automotive sector by applying pressure on manufacturers to reduce the micro plastics emitted from vehicles’ brakes and tyres.
Perhaps of more concern to motorists, though, is the new primary legislation that will ‘give local government new powers to improve air quality’. The form these powers will take is unclear, but some may fear the imposition of punitive measures against vehicles.
Councillor Martin Tett, from the Local Government Association, said it was ‘important’ that the government gave councils power to impose clean air zones, which see more polluting vehicles charged for entering certain areas.
‘It is important that councils have the powers to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to clean air zones as well as expanded road and traffic measures,’ he said. ‘If we’re to truly tackle air pollution, we need government support to enable us to deliver effective local plans, and robust national action to help the country transition to low-emission vehicles and power generation.’
However, the proposals are also tackling other forms of pollution. The government wants to reduce ammonia emissions from farming, as well as reducing emissions from wood-burning stoves. A DEFRA statement described the use of wood and charcoal to heat homes as ‘a particular concern’ that contributes 38 percent of UK emissions of damaging particulate matter.
Michael Gove said: ‘Air quality has improved significantly since 2010, but 60 years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment. This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of government to improve air quality.’