Hertfordshire County Council has joined local and regional authorities from across the UK in signing a letter to the UK Environment Secretary George Eustice pledging to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) targets on deadly air pollution ten years ahead of the Government’s 2040 deadline.
The pledge comes as a new report from the National Audit Office reveals the Government is failing to deliver on air quality standards.
The letter, signed by Councillor Morris Bright, Executive Member for Public Health & Community Safety, is a joint response to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consultation on “environmental targets”, coordinated by UK100.
The latest intervention comes just weeks after the UK announced plans to halve the legal limits for the most dangerous air pollutant by 2040; PM₂.₅. Local leaders believe the Government needs to go further, faster.
PM₂.₅ is the deadliest form of particulate matter pollution, a broad term describing the mixture of solids and liquids, including carbon, chemicals, sulphates, nitrates, mineral dust, and water in the air.
PM₂.₅ particles are tiny enough to be invisible to the naked eye and small enough to pass through the lungs, get carried in the bloodstream, and pass into other organs.
Generally, they come from the combustion of solid and liquid fuels, power generation, domestic heating and road vehicles.
Recognising that PM₂.₅ pollution is linked to thousands of preventable deaths every year in the UK, the letter from local leaders calls on the Government to address the “limitations of local authority powers” and introduce a “national policy” to tackle “all of the different sources of PM₂.₅”.
The letter also urges ministers to:
- Bring forward the UK’s PM₂.₅ target to 2030 in line with the WHO’s interim guideline and provide local leaders with the powers and funding to meet this target.
- Put in place a longer term target to meet the WHO’s updated guideline for PM₂.₅ — half of the interim limit.
- Establish a national public awareness campaign around the health impacts of air pollution and its causes, including domestic wood burning.
Councillor Morris Bright, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Public Health & Community Safety said: “I have signed this letter on behalf of the county council to demonstrate our commitment to cleaning up the air, and to ensure that we have the necessary support from Government to do so. Air pollution is one of the most significant challenges to public health and the environment that we face in Hertfordshire, and we want to work with the Government to deliver our Sustainable Hertfordshire ambition of cleaner air for all by 2030.”