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Lib Dems call for new Clean Air Act on 60th Anniversary

July 5, 2016 11:57 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have called on the UK government to introduce a new Act to tackle poor air quality and ensure vital pollution limits are not watered down post-Brexit.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, which was introduced in the 1950s to tackle deadly smog affecting UK cities.

In a letter to Secretary of State for the Environment Elizabeth Truss - signed by the Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Kate Parminter, Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson and MEP Catherine Bearder - the government is urged to ensure it follows through on EU agreements to tackle air pollution and enshrine essential limits into British law.

The letter concludes that the government must not "betray the legacy of the Clean Air Act by allowing the UK to become the dirty man of Europe once again."

Full text of the letter

Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dear Liz,

Today marks the 60th anniversary since the entry into force of the Clean Air Act, which did so much to reduce the deadly smog then afflicting cities across the UK. We are now faced with another crossroads in the fight for cleaner air, as the country prepares to leave the EU and potentially put vital pollution limits at risk.

It is now time for a new Act to take this fight to the next level and enshrine vital EU legislation into law. We've come far in the fight against air pollution in recent decades, but there remains much to be done. Air pollution is still linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK. Thousands of children still go to school in areas with dangerously high levels of pollution, damaging lung development and causing higher rates of asthma. The young, elderly and people with respiratory and heart conditions are all particularly vulnerable to the serious health impacts of poor air quality. Many parts of the UK are still failing to meet EU limits for safe and healthy air. Yet despite this, DEFRA has halved local authority funding for tackling air pollution.

European wide legislation is crucial to ensure action is taken by governments to improve air quality. Air pollution crosses borders, with around 40% of harmful pollutants in the UK coming from elsewhere in Europe and much of our own pollution ending up abroad. A new EU agreement reached last week to cut deadly emissions is set to halve the number of premature deaths from air pollution in the EU by 2030. Yet this strong international framework risks coming undone by the UK's departure from the EU.

We urge you to ensure that in coming Brexit negotiations, the UK government follows through on EU agreements to tackle air pollution and enshrines essential limits into British law. Leaving the EU must not be used as a way to water down vital air quality legislation. Do not betray the legacy of the Clean Air Act by allowing the UK to become the dirty man of Europe once again.

Whatever happens in the coming years, the UK government must commit to making Britain a greener and healthier place to live - investing in electric vehicles, promoting energy efficiency, and encouraging green innovation - and continue to play its part in delivering cleaner air for future generations.

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Parminter, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson
Baroness Randerson, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson
Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP