Around 36,000 people die from air pollution in the UK each year. Children are particularly vulnerable since toxic air stunts lung growth and exacerbates asthma. For Clean Air Day, The APPG on Air Pollution and Global Action Plan are bringing together those who are impacted by and campaigning against toxic air with presentations from:
Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Ella Roberta Family Foundation and World Health Organisation Advocate, Health and Air Quality
Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, MRC Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology, UKRI Clean Air Champion and Special Advisor to the RCP on Air Quality
Larissa Lockwood, Director of Clean Air at Global Action Plan
Nyeleti Brauer-Maxaeia, Co-Founder of Choked Up
Cllr Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden at Camden Council and UK100 spokesperson
The presentations will be followed by a Q&A. To join, register here
I’m looking forward to seeing you on Clean Air Day, Thursday 17th June at 9am.
Geraint Davies MP Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution
The All Party Parliamentary group (APPG) on Air Pollution brought together MPs with experts from the Committee on Climate Change, the DEFRA air quality review group and Asthma U.K, for an illuminating discussion on the relationships between air pollution, climate change and public health.
Geraint Davies, Chair of the APPG and Labour and Cooperative MP for Swansea West, began the event by emphasising the human cost of poor air quality, raising the example of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old child who died from the health impacts of air pollution. Geraint brought to our attention the recently published coroner’s ‘Report to Prevent Further Deaths’, which concluded that air pollution was the main cause of Ella’s death, and recommended that the government introduce legally binding air pollution targets based on World Health Organisation (WHO) standards on safe levels of pollutants.
‘There was no dispute at the inquest that atmospheric air pollution is the cause of many thousand premature deaths every year in the UK. Delay in reducing the levels of atmospheric air pollution is the cause of avoidable deaths.’ [Coroner’s report]
Geraint Davies called for putting WHO standards for PM2.5 on the face of the Environment Bill, which will go to the Lords on 7 June 2021 following the second day of Report Stage in the Commons this week. Geraint also suggested that all government departments should have a requirement to address air pollution, as action needs to be taken on planning and neighbourhoods within local government, on transport’s high contribution to emissions and on public awareness of the health impacts of air pollution. He depicted the public health emergency posed by air pollution, with 64,000 people dying prematurely due primarily to air pollution each year, and with poor air quality contributing to the development of dementia and lung conditions, alongside stunting lung growth in unborn babies and children.
David Joffe, Head of Carbon Budgets at the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) welcomed the news that the government agreed to the CCC’s sixth carbon budget, requiring the U.K to reduce its emissions by 78 percent from levels in 1990 by 2035. He argued that both main mechanisms for achieving these reductions – reducing demand for carbon intensive activities and improving resource and energy efficiency, will hugely reduce the quantity of pollutants in the air that we all breathe.
Professor Claire Reeves, an atmospheric scientist and a member of the Defra Air Quality Review Group, spoke about a report which the group produced on the likely impacts of the CCC’s Net Zero pathway on future air quality. They examined the likely impacts of each action proposed by the CCC in terms of different pollutants, and found that significantly improved air quality would result from virtually all actions. One example that Claire examined was the impacts of hydrogen use. She explained that hydrogen produced through low-carbon powered electrolysis of water results in low emissions, whereas hydrogen produced via other methods can result in methane emissions. If hydrogen is used in combination with fuel cells, emissions are very low, but burning hydrogen in boilers or engines would produce similar levels of emissions of nitrogen oxides, which harm human health, as current fossil fuel combustion does.
‘The direct combustion of hydrogen in domestic gas boilers or in engines would likely lead to similar NOx emissions to current fossil fuel combustion’
Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of Asthma U.K and British Lung Foundation, stressed the need to reduce the number of fossil fuel powered vehicles to improve air quality. She emphasised the importance of encouraging and enabling people to use forms of active and public transport rather than cars, as we build back better from the pandemic. She spoke powerfully about how high levels of air pollution across the country is trapping people with lung conditions in their homes, as air pollution outdoors makes them struggle to breathe normally. Sarah argued that Public Health England should be actively raising awareness about this public health emergency, similarly to how they created public awareness of the adverse health impacts of tobacco, leading to government legislation to tackle this issue.
‘80 percent of people with a lung condition said that air pollution affects their health and wellbeing’
Jason Torrance, Assistant Chief Executive at UK100, spoke about how local authorities have been implementing clean air zones across the U.K, most notably the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, which has been proven to cut levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide by a third. Jason shared insights gained by UK100 on policy areas that need government action and leadership, to enable local authorities to significantly reduce air pollution in their communities:
Making WHO standards on air quality into enforceable legal limits.
Providing finance for decarbonising transport and retrofitting homes in local authorities, ensuring that low-income groups are supported in this transition.
Devolving power to local authorities to enable them implement the changes required to rapidly transition to Net Zero.
Setting out a national clean air strategy.
Jason further suggested that the government should redirect spending away from programmes like the £27 billion road building programme which will significantly increase emissions, and towards programmes reducing emissions from transport.
A key takeaway from the event was the importance of making WHO standards on air quality into enforceable legal limits, to drive action across government departments on improving our air quality, which the APPG on Air Pollution is campaigning to be included in the Environment Bill.
Ahead of COP 26, delivering clean air will be an important driver and measure of environmental improvements and links directly with the government’s commitment to net zero. To discuss this further the meeting will include presentations from:
Dr. David Joffe, Head of Carbon Budgets, Climate Change Committee
Professor Claire Reeves, University of East Anglia, and member of the Air Quality Expert Group
Sarah Woolnough, CEO of the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation
Jason Torrance, Assistant Executive Director at UK 100
The negative health impacts of air pollution on children are well documented and it’s therefore imperative we reduce their exposure to pollution. A logical place to start is by looking at schools, where they spend most of their time during the week.
The APPG has long been a supporter of campaigns to reduce young people’s exposure to air pollution, including banning idling outside of schools, using hedges and plants to improve air quality in playgrounds and supporting active travel to schools. The APPG was therefore delighted to host this special event on schools and air pollution.
WATCH THE MEETING IN FULL:
Geraint Davies, Chair of the APPG, said that a second lockdown in England gave a renewed opportunity to improve air quality. It should also provide a further incentive for parents and schools to work together to reduce the pollution in schools to ensure they are healthy and safe places for children to learn, noting the link between prevalence and severity of Coronavirus with air pollution. He said it was important that parents are given up-to-date information on pollution levels to inspire healthier choices for travelling to school each day, with the support of schools and local authorities. The government must also act by including World Health Organisation pollution guidelines and provisions for monitoring indoor air pollution in the Environment Bill. He urged for people to write to their MPs asking for them to support these amendments to the Bill.
Chris Large, Co-CEO at Global Action Plan, said that Air Quality is an environmental issue, health issue, societal issue and an economic challenge. The benefits of tackling air pollution range from better health, with fewer road accidents, reduces stressed, less loneliness etc. Global Action’s school’s framework therefore sets out ways to engage different groups to tackle air pollution. You can see his full presentation here.
Dr Luke Munford, University of Manchester, summarised academic literature that shows air pollution decreased executive functioning in primary school students and carried out a study on how different pollutants effected memory. You can see the full presentation here.
Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of Environment and Research, FIA Foundation, showed the outcomes of a project, which gave school-aged children evidence on air pollution emission to interrogate. It successfully gave young peoplea voice in the debate about car manufacturing and omissions. You can see the full presentation here.
Gemma McHenry, Project Manager, Philips Foundation, highlighted how The Clean Air for Schools partnership set-out to equip all schools across the UK and Ireland with the tools and knowledge to improve air quality. You can see the full presentation here.
Steve Marsland, Head Teacher, Russell Scott Primary, said that schools working together can make the changes needed for better air quality for children.
In light of evidence on the detrimental impacts of air pollution on children’s ability to learn, we will be exploring solutions to improve air quality and the role that schools, businesses as well as local and national authorities can all play. The meeting will include presentations from:
Chris Large Co-Ceo, Global Action Plan
Dr Luke Munford & Professor Martie Van Tongeren, University of Manchester
Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of Environment and Research, FIA Foundation
Gemma McHenry, Project Manager, Philips Foundation
Steve Marsland, Head Teacher, Russell Scott Primary
With a new Committee deadline for the Environment Bill set in December 21st, the APPG took the opportunity to have an in-depth look with Minister Rebecca Pow.
Guest panellists Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians special adviser on air quality and Professor Elouise Scotford, Environmental Law at UCL gave their analysis of the Bill for their distinct professional points of view.
WATCH THE MEETING IN FULL :
Geraint Davies, Chair of the APPG, opened the meeting by calling for legally binding targets that can protect public health, to protect the environment and to protect the economy by giving businesses regulatory framework.
Minister Rebecca Pow acknowledged thatair pollutionis the single greatest environmental risk to human health. The Environment Bill, she noted, is the biggest piece of legislation to come through the Houses of Parliament is around two decades. In its current draft the Bill sets a legal duty on government to set a legally binding target on fine particulate matter, which has the most significant impact on human health. It also sets a duty to set an additional long-term target on air pollution.
A new paper published in August sets out how the government will focus on reducing average population exposure, which Minister Pow said was an innovative approach. Minister Pow argued that adopting WHO guideline limits in the Bill would be too simplistic. Before setting the targets the government plan to launch a public consultation to inform their decision and MPs will have a chance to scrutinise the targets before they are set in secondary legislation.
Aside from the targets, Minister Pow noted the additional powers that would be given to local authorities, giving them a framework for tackling air pollution. One of these will ensure that information is shared across multiple levels of local government to help tackle pollution. It will also give local authorities the powers to take action to stop people repeatedly emitting smoke without the need for long and costly legal battles in the courts. Plus, the Bill tightens control around solid fuels and gives powers to local authorities to stop them being burnt in smoke control areas, like on river barges for example.
Minister Pow, however, said that the Environment Bill was only one tool to tackle air pollution along with a wider context of measures that have been put in place, most notably through the Clean Air Strategy. A new one is due to be published and the Strategy will continue to be reviewed every five years.
In line with discussions with the Chair of the APPG, the government is doing a review of indoor air pollution with Public Health England and are looking at targeted interventions. The Air Quality Expert Group will be producing a report on indoor air quality focusing on fine particular matter and volatile organic compounds.
Due to the pandemic this year, the government is reviewing the link between air pollution and Covid-19, such as the link between deaths from Covid-19 and long-term exposure to air pollution. Also, the government is looking into impact of lockdown and air quality. The Minister noted that through the pandemic the government has promoted active travel and given funding to local authorities to improve cycle lanes.
Professor Stephen Holgate made clear that public health needs to be centre of the bill, noting in particular the damage it had on the growth of babies’ lungs. He said that more needed to be made of the biology behind the threat of fine particles need much more emphasis and there needed to be greater analysis of the toxicology of particles, rather than talking generally about particles as if particles from diesel to ammonia to burnt toast were all the same. He noted that only by understanding the differential threat can we better tackle the biggest offended.
Prof Holgate lamented that the responsibility for air pollution had been devolved to national governments and Public Health England and suggested instead there should be a joined-up approach which is health focussed and places responsibilities on Transport, Planning and Housing as well as DEFRA to deliver enforceable WHO standards
While the Bill prepares to hand over more powers to local authorities, Professor Holgate pointed out that three councils – Southampton, Leeds and Coventry have abandoned planned Clean Air Zones for lack of government cash and new Covid-19 responsibilities.
Professor Eloise Scotford said the structure of the Environment Bill allows for ambitious targets to be created, yet there is also an opportunity for delay and a lowering of standards over time. The Bill therefore needs to include an objective for target setting, which for air quality needs to be around the highest level of public and environmental health. There also needs to be some signal as to when and how new targets will be set going forward. There is also a risk of their being a two-track of environmental standards, between the ones we currently have and the new ones the government will bring forward, where it seems the former will be more enforceable. Prof Scotford suggests interim targets would help plug that gap.
Prof Scotford agreed that more structures to encourage local authorities and public bodies to coordinate is a helpful step forward. Yet she noted that local authorities don’t always have competence over pollution sources like major road building, fuel duty and subsidies for cleaner transport or nearby industry and agriculture so the Bill should ensure that central government ultimately remain responsible for cleaner air.
These statements were followed by a Q&A, where audience members made up of doctors, academics, lawyers, journalists, environmental experts, local leaders, MPs and peers were able to ask questions to the panel.
Environment Bill with Minister Rebecca Pow Ahead of the Environment Bill returning to Parliament, the APPG is delighted to host Minister Pow to discuss improving air quality through the Environment Bill along with panellists:
Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians special adviser onair quality, and
Professor Elouise Scotford, Environmental Law at UCL
Following the success of the Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus report in July, the APPG held its second virtual meeting which included a video launch for the strategy and panel discussion with Global Action and Businesses from the Clean Air Taskforce.
Context of the meeting:
• The impact of business on the UK’s air quality • What the UK public expect of government and business on air pollution, since Coronavirus • What businesses can do to reduce air pollution and #Act4Cleanair • Government measures that can accelerate the response from the private sector to address air pollution
Global Action Plan, Larissa Lockwood, Head of Air Quality and Chris Large, Co-CEO. The full presentation can be found here
Philips UKI & Philips Foundation, Mark Leftwich, Director, Personal Health.
Zehnder Group UK, Ben Simons, Country Manager, Clean Air Solutions. The full presentation can be found here
Octopus Electric Vehicles, Fiona Howarth, CEO. The full presentation can be found here
DEFRA, Anna Sargeant, Deputy Head, Air Quality and Industrial Emissions. The full presentation can be found here
MP’s in Attendance
John McNally MP Christine Jardine MP Sarah Britcliffe MP Tony Lloyd MP Peter Dowd MP Fleur Anderson MP Neale Hanvey MP
Air Pollution All Party Parliamentary Group Zoom meeting took place on Friday 29th May, Air Pollution & Coronavirus
Academic research & post-lockdown strategy
COVID death & infection rates and air pollution
Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health Xiao Wu, doctoral student, and Rachel Nethery, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Queen Mary University of London Jonathan Grigg, Professor of paediatricrespiratory and environmental medicine York University Alastair Lewis, Professor of atmospheric chemistryand Chair of the Defra Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus Infection.
The APPG launched its Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus Infection as we emerge from Lockdown in order to keep air pollution low and to deliver World Health Organisation Air Quality Standards.