Two very important things happened this month. If you care about health or air quality it is important to note them and take action.
Firstly, the UK government estimated the impact of NOx emissions on public health. This is the first time this has happened.
Previous estimates were that 29,000 deaths were attributable to poor air quality annually as a result of particulate matter.
The latest report though from DEFRA estimates that NOx emissions have additional impacts. They contributed to an additional 23,500 annually. So the new revised figure is that 52,500 deaths are attributable to poor air quality annually. Over 1,000 people a week.
You may not have heard this news. It was released minutes before Jeremy Corbyn was announced as leader of the Labour party. It is easy to think that perhaps that is a bit of conspiracy theory. Surely Government has a plan to make improvements. Surely things are not as bad as that. I am not so sure.
European Limits for nitrogen dioxide were set in 1998 to be achieved by 2010, giving us 12 years. Not only have we missed the deadline but some of our biggest cities are expected to take a further 15 years to achieve the goals.
In April 2015 the Supreme Court ruling required the UK Government to do more. They directed Government to actually get cracking and draw up plans to meet these requirements. The plans need to be submitted by December 2015. Hoorah for the separation of powers.
This is the second important item that occurred in the last month. An Air Quality Consultation was launched by DEFRA and The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP. These are the plans to meet the requirement of the Supreme Court ruling. What do the new plans mean? The plans do not provide any funding or new powers for local authorities to enforce it. Local authorities faced with austerity cuts are going to be exceptionally pushed to take action.
DEFRA state that they plan for seven UK zones to still breach the NO2 limit value until 2020 even with their new plan. I found it hard to know what a zone was when I was reading the document. A zones means areas such as the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk) and the West Midlands (Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire). Five other regions will also need to wait that long.
London is expected to breach the NO2 limit value till 2025, even with Defra’s new plan. The levels of deaths in London attributable to air pollution are 9,400 a year.
The consultation is right here.
If you have children, if you are old or hope to be old at some point or you would just like cleaner air do respond. The consultation closes at noon on 6th November. One way to provide local authorities with funding would be to fine VW and other car manufacturers, for their fraudulent emissions, and to put the funds received towards action local authorities could take.