Exclusive: UK100 report analyses progress on clean air and future challenges

A new report from UK100 analyses the progress made on delivering clean air in the past year, calling for more policy levers and support to enable local authorities to improve air quality.

The report notes some positive steps made in tackling air pollution – including government commitment to setting PM2.5 targets and more Clean Air Zones (CAZ) introduced – as well as a range of opportunities to further clean air aims, like the establishment of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

However, there are still challenges to address if we are to make clean air a reality according to the report, such as speeding up implementation and progress on tackling NO2, and expanding our focus to other pollutants, particularly PM and ammonia.

UK100 also raises concern about a lack of clarity on how the government will meet 2030 ceiling limits on PM, echoing the National Audit Office (NAO), and the current limited approach to rolling out CAZ.

‘Currently the onus is on local authorities to introduce CAZ, but support from central government is limited and funding is insufficient,’ argues the report.

According to the report, current gaps in action on air pollution include a lack of integrated thinking and urgency and social inequality in exposure to dirty air.

UK100 argue that committing to the World Health Organization interim air quality target of 10µg/m3 (WHO-10) by 2030 and starting delivery in 2022 would speed up improved air quality, while delivering improvements to the economy, climate and public health.

They also call on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to work in step with Defra and the Department for Transport to afford all people the right to clean air.

‘It is clear we need to be simultaneously working to deliver Net Zero and addressing the root causes of our polluted air. By identifying the synergies in their policy development, local authorities can adopt smarter and more efficient responses. The challenge is firm, but the solutions are available. Giving local authorities the power to set clear trajectories and build momentum for change will be key to delivering a cleaner, Net Zero future,’ wrote Karen Barrass, Policy and Research Manager at UK100.

Across UK100’s progress reports – which will be published tomorrow – three overarching themes were identified:

  • Partnerships: Local authority teams need to align to integrate clean air and Net Zero approaches, and the government should work with local authorities and businesses on effective solutions. There also needs to be consideration for raising awareness of the benefits of clean air among local communities.
  • Finance: Local residents and businesses meet clean air solutions with opposition due to costs of switching their vehicles or paying the charge. The government should establish a programme that provides financial support for the poorest in society and small businesses to switch the cleaner or active transport.
  • Frameworks/Governance: The relationship between Defra and the Department for Transport through the Joint Air Quality Unit is useful – but as the scope of the issue broadens to other pollutants and alignment with net zero, a wider focus beyond transport may be warranted. It is also unclear how the Local Net Zero Forum will approach the air quality issue and what responsibility the OEP will take, so clarification of parameters and roles are needed to avoid ‘significant governance barriers’.

Uk100 is calling for urgent clarity on support that will be offered to local authorities as they tackle the issue of clean air, particularly to relieve short-term financial pressures on residents and businesses.

‘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,’ said Karen Barrass.

Photo by Mario La Pergola


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1 year ago

Says ‘ UK100 also raises concern about a lack of clarity on how the government will meet 2030 ceiling limits on PM ( particulate matter) ‘. So, what will our new Prime Minister (also PM!) do to ensure UK stays within these new limits? Its’ all very vague so far. And how can we know if there are improvements (significant drop in PM) over the next few years, if we do not have enough particulate matter monitoring stations throughout the whole UK? Some counties still have none.

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