'In Camden we must work towards tougher air quality targets'

Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when hydrocarbon fuels including wood, coal, natural

Air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths in London every year - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

In 2018, Camden became the first UK local authority to adopt the World Health Organization air pollution targets.

Between 2018 and 2021, nitrogen dioxide levels fell by 36% in Camden and fine particulate matter by 9%. But we still have a long way to go to achieve the WHO goals. 

The government is currently consulting on new environmental targets, including air quality, water, biodiversity and waste.

Following Brexit, this is the moment where the government should live up to its supposed ambition of going beyond EU goals (which, indeed, the WHO standards pursued by Camden do). 

Cllr Adam Harrison praised the flexibility of the council's rubbish collection contract. Picture: Camden Council

Cllr Adam Harrison is working on Camden's new tougher air quality targets - Credit: Archant

Last September, the WHO tightened its limits yet further beyond our 2018 adopted goals. They made this move in response to the ever-rising amount of evidence about the harm air pollution causes to our health. In Camden, we must also now work out a path to these new, even tougher, targets.  

Unfortunately, the government is proposing only to aim for the old WHO guidelines - and even then, only to do so by 2040. This is despite the government’s own advisers confirming that we could achieve them across most of the UK by 2030. 

In some parts of Camden, we have already achieved the government’s proposed 2040 air quality target, partly due to our ambitious Clean Air Action Plan: installing cleaner electric charging points for cars, and even canal boats; leading research projects and public awareness campaigns about air pollution; and rolling out an ever-wider air quality monitoring network. But we know that air pollution still causes 4,000 premature deaths in London every year and affects the wellbeing of thousands more, whilst damaging the economy and placing pressures on the NHS.  

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London will be the toughest place to achieve the new WHO air quality standards, but the government’s proposals do not go far or fast enough either for the capital or anywhere else in the country. 

I therefore urge everyone to have their say on the government’s plans, which anyone can do online before June 27, 2022 at consult.defra.gov.uk/natural-environment-policy/consultation-on-environmental-targets 

Cllr Adam Harrison is cabinet member for a Sustainable Camden.