UK commitment at Global Air Pollution summit

| 1st November 2018
London's air pollution is so bad, it can be seen on occasion. Photo: David Holt via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
London's air pollution is so bad, it can be seen on occasion. Photo: David Holt via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Government commitment to clean up its act at the first Global Air Pollution and Health Summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

We are committed to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

The UK government has submitted a voluntary commitment to step up its efforts to tackle air pollution across the country at the final High Level Action Day of the conference today.

The first-ever international air pollution conference organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) brought together government officials and health experts from more than 100 countries to place the issue on the global agenda. At least 18 other national governments, eight cities and 20 NGOs also submitted individual commitments.

Air pollution is the fourth biggest threat to public health in the UK, after cancer, obesity and heart disease.

Roadside hotspots

The launch of a Clean Air Strategy in May by environment secretary Michael Gove already indicated the reduction of air pollution has become a priority for the UK government. The WHO estimates that the UK Clean Air Strategy will reduce the costs of air pollution to British society by £1 billion every year by 2020.

In Geneva today, the UK government has further committed to take action in bringing down particulate matter in the country, the most harmful air pollutant, promising to halve the number of British people living with concentrations of particulate matter above the WHO guideline of 10 μg/m3 by 2025.

Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, the under secretary of state for the environment confirmed in a written statement to the Global Air Pollution conference that her government will start legislation for a new Environment Act by early 2019.

First generation

The new Environment Act will give local governments more powers to take decisive action in areas with an air pollution problem and will put stricter standards in place for domestic fuels and stoves.

The UK’s commitment for Clean Air in Geneva today also highlighted the commitment of a £3.5bn government investment to reduce concentrations of nitrogen dioxide at roadside hotspots, including £1.2bn to improve provision for walking and cycling and £475 million to help local authorities develop and implement local air quality plans.

"Governments cannot do this alone. That is why [our air pollution measures] have collaboration at their heart, working with businesses, farmers, industry and households, to develop innovative new solutions to reduce emissions," MP Thérèse Coffey stated.

"We are committed to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it."

This Author

Arthur Wyns is a tropical biologist and science journalist who writes about climate change, environment and migration. He tweets from @ArthurWyns

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