Exclusive: Bath & North East Somerset Council responds to Local Net Zero delivery report on clean air

Councillor Kevin Guy, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, welcomes UK100’s Local Net Zero delivery report on clean air, calling for ambitious action on air quality at the local and national level. 

The power and potential of local authorities to design and deliver real progress towards Net Zero against a global backdrop of unpredictable and far-reaching challenges has never been clearer. 

UK100 has been focused on cleaner air for several years. I welcome its report on the progress made at a local level in the past year and the actions needed now. 

Along with many other ambitious local authorities, Bath & North East Somerset Council has pledged the leadership to support the district to achieve Net Zero by 2030 – ahead of the Government’s 2050 deadline. We have signed the UK100 members’ pledge to act sooner than the 2050 deadline and make substantial progress within the next decade. 

In March 2021 we introduced the first charging Clean Air Zone outside of London. We are committed to working together with other local leaders to improve air quality, and implementing innovative solutions to protect our residents. Clean air is a national problem that needs national action to enable locally designed solutions. But in many cases, local authorities do not have the powers, or the funding, to ensure their districts achieve clean air and so this is a huge challenge.

UK100 has recently developed the concept of Clean Air Net Zero (CANZ), to better understand the clear synergies between the two issues and to enable the development of policy solutions which can consider both and deliver valuable co-benefits. 

Air pollution is a health emergency, the far-reaching consequences of which are more obvious every day. In its recent assessment of the Government’s approach to tackling local air quality breaches (specifically focused on nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ), the National Audit Office (NAO) finds that while progress has been made, it has been slower than expected. The report also highlights concerns related to particulate matter (PM), such as dust, dirt and soot.

While responses to NO2 – largely from road transport – are becoming more robust, more evidence on the impact of PM demonstrates that urgent responses are needed to address the wide-ranging sources of pollution.

NAO states that although the Government has arrangements to manage the links between its work on air quality and Net Zero, these could be strengthened. The Royal Society and Air Quality Expert Group have both outlined the potential co-benefits of such an approach. And UK100’s CANZ report identified that doing so could save £1.6 billion a year on the cost of delivering Net Zero.

So it is clear we need to be simultaneously working to deliver Net Zero, and addressing the root causes of our polluted air. Clean Air Zones tend to be focused on upgrading vehicles rather than ensuring there are practical alternatives to private vehicles. However, accompanying these initiatives with measures to provide more practical and affordable alternatives to the private vehicle can yield reductions in both carbon and NO2 emissions at once.

By identifying the synergies in their policy development, LAs can adopt smarter and more efficient responses. The challenge is firm, but the solutions are available. Giving LAs the power to set clear trajectories and build momentum for change will be key to delivering a cleaner, Net Zero future. We have signed an open letter to the Government pledging ambitious action on PM2.5 air pollution and calling on the UK to meet WHO air pollution standards by 2030.

I fully support UK100’s request for this government to take a robust position with respect to setting targets on particulate matter pollution. In Bath, we have already seen improvements in air quality since introducing a Clean Air Zone in March last year. We have yet to receive the formal assessment from the Joint Air Quality Unit, but our data shows that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in the zone have reduced by 21% since the pre-Covid baseline year, 2019. This is despite traffic flows in Bath largely returning to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of the year and significant highway works.

Air quality and traffic flows have been monitored outside of the zone to determine if the charges have simply displaced traffic and associated emissions, but our findings show that NO2 concentrations in the urban area outside of the zone, but within Bath, Bathampton and Batheaston, have reduced by 22% since 2019.

Read Air Quality News‘ exclusive coverage of the Local Net Zero delivery report on clean air here


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