Achieving World Health Organisation air pollution guidelines

The World Health Organisation’s update to air quality guidelines highlight the latest evidence on air pollution concentration and the cost to public health. At the same time, the UK parliament was debating its flagship environmental legislation, which requires new target setting. While health and environmental champions are calling for the government to meet World Health Organisation standards, particularly in highly populated areas, the APPG examines how to put the science into law and make sure the implementation is as effective as possible.

WATCH Q&A SESSION OF THE MEETING HERE:

Dr Dorota Jarosinska, Programme Manager, Living and Working Environments at World Health Organisation (WHO), presented WHO’s Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) 2021, which were published in September. Dr Jarosinska, detailed how the new guidelines reflected a greater insight into global concentrations, types of particulate matter and the global burden of disease. Dr Jarosinska noted how the AQGs can be used to guide, drive and support the selection and adoption of measures to reduce exposure to air pollution and recognised that countries faced similar challenges of implementing new measures. Above all, it required multi-level governance; a comprehensive implementation system; and the health focus should be on reducing population exposure rather than concentration targets alone. See Dr Jarosinska’s presentation here.

Professor Eloise Scotford, Professor of Environmental Law, highlighted the need for a full infrastructure of legal changes to support cleaner air. She noted the limitations of using only numerical limit values to create holistic policy changes. Professor Scotford suggested that coordinating policy across government was required and those structures should be made more transparent and potentially have some legal connection between them, as is already the case for climate change. See Professor Scotford’s presentation here.

Bill Parish, Deputy Director for Air Quality and Industrial Emissions in DEFRA, joined to answer questions which ranged from wood burning, Drax power station, agriculture, trade and intergovernmental working to tackle air pollution. He noted that when the targets are announced they will reflect the conversations with other government departments and there is an interdepartmental process for establishing policy. Air quality, Mr Parish said, cannot be considered in isolation from Net Zero and government should ensure there are no unintended consequences to policy changes. On agriculture, he added, that the difficulty with ammonia in farming livestock required infastucture and technological developments to reduce emissions. In regards to wood burning for generating power, Mr Parish suggested the Environment Agency could create permits to ensure the pellets are as clean as possible and comply with pre-designated levels.

You can watch the Q&A section of the event here.