Ministers are ‘cowards’ for not acting faster on air pollution says Labour MP

Labour MP says government are being ‘slow’ to act on ‘such a critical issue’

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 27 January 2022 23:48
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<p>London received a warning over high pollution levels earlier this month</p>

London received a warning over high pollution levels earlier this month

Ministers are being slow to act on potentially deadly air pollution because they are “cowards”, an MP has said

Geraint Davies, the Labour chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, told The Independent the government had a “duty” to clean up its air for its citizens — and that this was not happening fast enough.

He urged ministers to implement a stricter threshold on what constitutes dangerous levels of air pollution.

This was also recommended by a coroner last year, who found excessive pollution contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013.

MPs voted down a proposal to bring the UK’s legal limits in line with the World Health Organisation’s last October.

Mr Davies told The Independent more needed to be done to tackle air pollution in the UK. “The UK governments are being so slow to act on such a critical issue because they are fundamentally cowards waiting for the public to catch up on the fact this is so damaging for the families,” he said.

The chair of the APPG on air pollution added: “Parents have a duty to protect their children’s right to life. And the government has got a duty to ensure they can by cleaning up all of air.”

He suggested there was a reluctance to toughen up legal pollution limits because it would mean “suddenly” having to take significant action, such as by banning wood-burning stoves and restricting the number of cars.

“But the truth is, we should ban wood-burning stoves and we should limit the number of diesel-belching cars,” the Labour MP for Swansea West said.

“So they should impose the guidelines for the very reasons they haven’t.”

Public Health England has previously called air pollution the UK’s “biggest environmental threat to health”, estimating long-term exposure contributes to up to 36,000 deaths a year.

Poor air quality has been linked to a host of health problems, including heart and lung disease, lung cancer and making asthma worse.

A Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010 – at a national level emissions of fine particulate matter have fallen by 11 per cent, while emissions of nitrogen oxides are at their lowest level since records began.!

They added: “To continue to drive forward tangible and long-lasting improvements to air quality we are committed to setting stretching and ambitious targets on air quality through our Environment Act.”

After rejecing bringing UK air pollution limits in line with the WHO’s last year, the government said it would run a public consultation in 2022 and aim to bring in new legislation by autumn.

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