Air quality experts at ClientEarth are renewing their calls for the Government to mandate a nationwide network of charging Clean Air Zones – including for cars – as they reveal little progress in reducing the number of zones in the country with illegal levels of air pollution.
New air pollution figures for 2018 released by the UK Government show that out of 43 reporting zones in the country, 36 were still breaching legal limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution that should have been met in 2010.
As such, ClientEarth says the data indicates the Government’s solution to pass the air quality buck to local authorities has so far proven completely ineffective.
Andrea Lee, ClientEarth’s clean air campaigns and policy manager, said: “Almost 10 years after legal limits should have been met, it is astounding that only seven out of 43 zones have legal levels of air pollution. This is not simply a failure by the Government to comply with its legal duties but, most importantly, it is a failure to protect the health of people across the country from toxic air.”
The organisation added that local authorities lack the resources, capacity and leadership to get to grip with the problem. Proposals from cities such as Bristol, Greater Manchester and Newcastle, are already 10 months behind government-imposed deadlines and are reining back on action to reduce pollution from private cars, which are a larger contributor to the air quality problem.
More recently, Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside amended its proposals and the proposed scheme will not levy charges on private cars for now.
In response, ClientEarth said that the Government needs to sort this mess and act urgently, including with new clean air laws in the upcoming Environment Bill.
It added that bold UK-wide policies are needed, such as a national network of Clean Air Zones, backed by help and support for people and businesses, particularly people on low incomes.
Lee added: “This is a consumer scandal as well as a public health crisis.”