Labour’s air quality focus ‘encouraging’

Environmental Industries Commission responds to Labour MP Maria Eagle’s speech on air quality at party conference this week

The Labour Party’s emphasis on tackling air pollution as one of its environmental policy priorities has been described as “encouraging” by the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC).

Responding to shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle MP’s speech at the Labour Party conference this week (September 23), the trade association said that although it was “very much a political speech” it was “encouraging that air quality is seen as a clear priority for Labour”.

Labour's shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle MP

Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle MP

And, the EIC, which represents the UK’s environmental technologies and services sector, welcomed Labour’s policy to develop a national framework of low emission zones (LEZs), commenting: “The national framework of low emission zones is something which EIC has lobbied for over several years and will be part of the answer.”

Speaking at the party’s conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Maria Eagle MP reiterated (see story) the party’s commitment to deliver a national framework for low emission zones (LEZs) in the UK and to give more power to local authorities to tackle air pollution in their regions.

Labour leader Ed Miliband made no mention of the party’s air quality commitments in his speech later that day, but Ms Eagle told the audience in the morning: “While we’re talking about the necessities of life – what about the air we breathe? How can it be that 29,000 of our fellow citizens are dying prematurely each year as a direct result of air pollution? And David Cameron and Nick Clegg have done nothing.”

She added that children were “having their lung capacity impaired, with lifelong consequences, because they go to schools situated on the busiest roads in the towns and cities up and down our land most susceptible to pollution”.

The Labour MP also said that the UK “has one of the worst records of any European country for exceeding EU air pollution limits, with 93 per cent of UK zones failing”, describing the current government’s environmental record as “appalling”.

In addition, she criticised the government for threatening to make local councils foot the bill for missing EU targets for nitrogen dioxide emissions: “They’ve localised the responsibility for paying the fines without setting out a national framework for action to tackle the problem. So, unlike David Cameron and Nick Clegg a Labour government will devolve the power, not just the responsibility, to Councils willing to take action against air pollution.

“We’ll introduce a national framework of low emission zones to encourage greener, less polluting vehicles to deliver the cleaner air people need to breathe.”

Friends of the Earth

Also welcoming Maria Eagle’s speech on air pollution at Labour Party conference, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: “The shadow government is rightly pledging to tackle dangerous air pollution which is second only to smoking for causing premature deaths and blights lives – including for children whose lungs don’t develop properly.

“The capital is not due to meet EU legal limits till after 2030 and the London Assembly Members and councils need to get behind bold and urgent action to tackle this scandal and protect health of Londoners.”


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