The government is failing to act on air pollution

Air pollution levels are now a public health emergency as millions of people in our country are living in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The extent of the air pollution crisis nationally is exposed in recently released data which shows 59% of the population are living in towns and cities where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution breaches the lawful level of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.

What’s more, outdoor air pollution contributes to some 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health. NO2 comes from sources including factories and vehicles, particularly diesel engines.

Labour have vowed to bring in a new Clean Air Act, including a network of ‘clean air zones’ if it is elected to finally tackle this serious issue affecting communities across our country.

The proposals come after government ministers sought to delay the release of a key report on its plans to meet EU air pollution standards – regularly broken in many parts of the UK – which it had been ordered to publish by today.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs went to court last Friday seeking leave to delay it until after the 8 June general election, saying it was necessary to comply with pre-election propriety rules.

Raising concerns over the government’s inability to tackle this pressing concern, Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman accused the government of attempting to use the general election as cover for their failure to act on air quality.

She added it was “unacceptable” for the government to apply for the delay “less than one working day before it is due”.

Portsmouth is one of the cities and towns across the country where breaches are made on pollution levels.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour Leader, said:

“The UK air pollution crisis by this government is a national scandal and public health emergency. Poor air quality is a major cause of disease and death.

Whilst efforts may be underway locally to tackle this important issue, this helpful data shows us that air pollution is also a national problem which requires a national solution.

The government’s response has been shameful. Swift action must be taken to reduce pollution levels in the UK to protect our health. Only Labour will take this issue in our communities seriously”.