Leicester Mercury

Council should stick with clean air zone plan

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LEICESTER Green Party calls on Leicester City Council to stick to its plan for a clean air zone in the centre of the city.

Air pollution may be down in 2020, and not exceeding the EU’s air quality standards, but:

The EU’s targets are out-of-date: the EU plans to align its air quality standards more closely with the stricter World Health Organisati­on standards.

2020 air pollution levels were a one-off: there was a big reduction in road traffic in 2020 brought about by Leicester’s lockdown and instructio­ns to work from home.

The Conservati­ve government has been glacially slow in moving to legislate on air pollution since the United Kingdom left the European Union and is under pressure to create strict legislatio­n on clean air to reduce the UK’s level of air pollution.

The EU plans to set a new target of cutting premature deaths from air pollution by 2030 with air quality standards more aligned with World Health Organisati­on (WHO) air quality standards.

The WHO has outlined major changes to its previous air pollution recommenda­tions for NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 particulat­es (published in 2005) to reflect current scientific evidence on the threat air pollution poses to human health.

On all measures UK legal limits, including Leicester’s, are currently up to four times higher than WHO recommenda­tions.

MPs have rejected tougher air pollution limits which would have brought the UK in line with WHO guidance by 2030.

Instead, a public consultati­on will take place on particulat­e matter air pollution, with an aim to introduce new legislatio­n by October 2022 to tackle the problem, which is estimated to kill at least 30,000 people a year in Britain.

More ambitious targets will require the government to speed up progress on clean air – with road transport an immediate priority.

A clean air zone that charges the most polluting vehicles to enter the most polluted parts of Leicester’s city centre – much like the Birmingham – with help and support for people and businesses to move on to cleaner forms of transport, would be a good place to start.

In fact, a recent YouGov survey results showed that over two-thirds of people in the UK are in support of such schemes.

Without ambitious legally binding targets and clear duties to back them up, ministers and local authoritie­s will continue to drag their feet on a serious public health issue.

Setting ambitious air pollution targets to meet WHO air pollution standards by 2030 would help drive action to meet the government’s commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050.

Bob Ball and Aasiya Bora, Leicester Green Party

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