‘Ella’s law’ codifying human right to clean air has second reading in parliament

A new bill aiming to limit air pollution and enshrine the human right to clean air has had its second reading in the House of Lords today.

The legislation, brought in by Green party peer Baroness Jenny Jones, was voted top of the ballot for private member’s bills (PMB’s).

If made law, it would tackle all forms of air pollution, including indoor and outdoor, and would set up a commission to evaluate government progress on clean air, alongside annual reviews of the latest science.

woman in black long sleeve shirt holding white face mask

Beginning the session, Baroness Jones, said: ‘I have witnessed politicians of all parties fail to deal with this public health emergency when in government. Year after year for the past two decades, I have seen the same press statement from Defra playing down the problem and stating that it is just about solved. Year after year, I have witnessed the Government hiding information about bad air days and air pollution episodes because it might scare the public into demanding action.

‘The result has been an invisible killer being allowed to take victims while the Government sit by and Ministers lose three consecutive court cases over their failure to have a decent plan. My view is that warning people about air pollution and acting to keep everyone, particularly the vulnerable, safe is what Governments should be doing.

‘That is why this legislation to make clean air a human right is so essential. This Bill would enshrine the human right to clean air precisely and explicitly in UK law.’

The Bill would require the government to assess air pollution in England and Wales and publish detailed reports, including warnings when needed, and citizens commission would review government compliance with this each year.

Air pollution targets would be updated annually, restrictions on sales of combustion appliances, like wood burning stoves, would be brought in and powers would be given to local authorities.

The proposed legislation, Ella’s law, has been named after nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah who is the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death after suffering a fatal asthma attack.

Her mother Rosamund, a long-time clean air campaigner following her daughter’s death, was sat in the House of Lords listening to the debate today.

Pollution is a global health crisis, with The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health revealing that it contributed to nine million deaths in 2019 – equivalent to one in six deaths worldwide.

Air pollution accounts for nearly 75% of those deaths, and more than 1.8 million deaths are caused by toxic chemical pollution – an increase of 66% since 2000.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema


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