England’s Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has criticised the central government’s air quality plans for unfairly shifting the burden to local authorities. According to CIEH, the government has failed to recognise that poor air quality is a national issue, offloading responsibility onto local authorities, who are being set up for failure if proposed plans go ahead.
“The government’s proposals are woefully inadequate to tackle air pollution and place far too much responsibility on the shoulders of our over-stretched local authorities,” said Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at CIEH. “We stand on the cliff-edge of a national public health emergency, and these plans are devoid of substantive proposals, timescales for addressing the key challenges, clarity around targets or even availability of resources to support necessary actions.”
CIEH is particularly critical of the government’s focus on Clean Air Zones (CAZs), which are being tested in five English cities. The group suggests that CAZs are similar to Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), which have been operating across the UK for many years. Call them CAZs or AQMAs, they simply cause drivers to find alternative routes to avoid the zones, worsening pollution in other areas.
CIEH has put forward a number of proposals for the government to consider in its final air quality plans, including: more and better real-time monitoring of air quality and associated health-related data; taking action to remove vehicles that do not comply with EuroVI/6 or petrol Euro 3 standards from the roads; removing tax incentives for diesel and transferring these incentives to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles infrastructure development.
“Air pollution does not recognise boundaries,” added Tony Lewis. “All regions, towns and cities and even rural areas are affected by air pollution, leading to thousands of premature deaths every year and contributing to major illnesses. We urgently need the government to devise a robust plan, which should also include provisions for a new Clean Air Act, incorporating a national solution that is consistent, shares responsibility and ensures better funding – before it’s too late.”