Local authorities across England have been given more than £5 million in government funding to deliver innovative projects to improve air quality.
The funding, from the government’s Air Quality Grant, helps councils develop and implement measures to benefit schools, businesses and communities and reduce the impact of air pollution on health.
These projects complement the wider UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, which includes a £3.5 billion investment into air quality and cleaner transport. The plan is supporting the uptake of low emissions vehicles, getting more people to cycle and walk, and encouraging cleaner public transport.
More than double the funding awarded in 2020 has been made available for this year’s grant, meaning a raft of particularly strong applications are being supported.
The application process especially welcomed projects to tackle fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which is known to be the pollutant of greatest harm to human health. Plans to increase awareness and encourage long-term behaviour change were also successful.
Proposals which have won funding include projects and campaigns to:
- partner with GPs to train them as Air Quality champions to raise awareness of the health impacts of air pollution in their surgeries;
- promote anti-idling and organise school street closures at pick-up and drop off times;
- encourage the uptake of electric taxis;
- enhance educational programmes for schoolchildren.
The £5,129,295 awarded in this round of funding means that almost £70 million has been awarded through the Air Quality Grant since it was launched in 1997. Since 2010, notable projects to receive funding include campaigns to promote greater awareness of pollution from domestic burning; a project to promote electric charging points for canal boats; and collaborations with local businesses to develop low or zero-emissions freight.
These projects have contributed to the significant improvement in air quality seen in the UK in recent decades – since 2010, emissions of fine particulate matter have fallen by 11%, while emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 32% and are at their lowest level since records began.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010 but remains the greatest environmental risk to human health.
“This funding demonstrates our commitment to improving our air and also our openness to innovation, through pioneering initiatives such as campaigns to encourage greater use of electric bikes and education programmes teaching children about the harms of fine particulate matter.
“We know local authorities are in the best position to address the issues they face in their areas. These projects demonstrate how they can deliver innovative solutions for their communities and we will continue to work with them closely to offer ongoing support.”
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “From promoting anti-idling to increasing the uptake of electric taxis, the Air Quality Grant will help to clean up our air as we look to build back greener and lower our carbon footprint.
“The funding announced today will take us one step closer to meeting our climate change obligations, improving air quality and supporting economic growth right across the country.”
The Air Quality Grant forms part of the wider UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Concentrations, which includes a £3.5 billion investment into air quality and cleaner transport.
As a result of the NO2 plan, and alongside the Air Quality Grant, the government has been working with 61 local authorities – and providing £880 million in funding – to reduce NO2 concentrations through local plans that will deliver required improvements in the shortest time possible.
There are connected plans and initiatives that promote the uptake of low emissions vehicles, getting more people to cycle and walk, and encouraging cleaner public transport.
The government has also recently taken bold action to cut pollution from household burning – the single largest source of the pollutant Particulate Matter (PM2.5), which is the most harmful air pollutant for human health – with bans on the sale of coal and wet wood for domestic burning coming into force from May this year.