A Breath of Fresh Air

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SERA has launched a campaign for a new Clean Air Act for the 21st Century, alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s call for such an act in his landmark speech on air pollution. The launch of the campaign marks the 60th Anniversary of the UK’s first Clean Air Act, and the need for a new act to tackle the deadly air we breathe today.

Air pollution is causing the premature deaths of 40,000 plus UK citizens at an economic cost of £54 billion. It is the number one cause of death from environmental impacts and claims more lives than alcohol and obesity combined. Now more than ever, following the referendum and the threat to EU protections we currently have, action must be taken now.

Over the coming months ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ will be building support for an act, encouraging research, shaping policy changes and actions including outlining the additional powers councils and administrations need, work with and host discussions with key organisations, to enable a bold, robust and ambitious Clean Air Act that is fit for the 21st Century.

Launching the campaign, SERA Co-Chair’s, Melanie Smallman and Jake Sumner, said:

“In a few months’ time, the UK Government is once again being taking to the European Court for their failure to act on air pollution. In the meantime, thousands more people will die from the air they breathe. Back in the 1950s, as well as giving councils the powers to establish smoke control zones, the Clean Air Act also championed firm action including offering grants so householders could convert their coal-burning fires to smokeless fuel. 

“We need the same level of commitment to saving people’s lives today, which is why for the Clean Air Act’s 60th anniversary we have announced ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ to help secure the Clean Air Act the UK desperately needs.”

The campaign has already gathered support from a number of Labour MPs, MEPs, AMs and Councillors:

Alan Whitehead MP for Southampton Test and SERA Parliamentary Link

“We’ve got to take urgent action on air quality. Southampton is one of the UK cities identified as having unacceptable air quality, and Labour’s Southampton City Council are determined to get to grips with it.

What are the tools we need to do the work and how available are they? What should government do to support Southampton? We need to know all the answers to these questions and I’m looking to the SERA A Breath of Fresh Air to provide them.”

Matthew Pennycook MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution

“Air pollution is the UK’s leading environmental health risk and needs concerted action at all levels. This should be supported through a new Clean Air Act, fit for purpose to enable us to breathe clean, safe air across our country – particularly in our most polluted cities, from London to Leeds, and Birmingham to Bristol and Brighton.”

Seb Dance MEP, Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety 

“EU rules have been turned to time and time again to hold the British government to account on air pollution. After the Referendum vote, these protections are in serious peril. If we lose them, a new Clean Air Act will become even more critical to avoid the tragic loss of lives in UK cities.

The inconvenient truth for those who sought to argue the environmental benefits of a Britain outside the EU, is that air pollution has an unfortunate habit of not respecting borders: over one-third of the UK’s air pollution is blown in from across the English Channel.

Cross-border co-operation and common laws across European countries will be crucial, whether Britain is part of the EU or not, in ensuring we do not end up with a race to the bottom on environmental standards. Any new regulation in the UK must reflect this reality.”

Leonie Cooper AM, Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee and SERA Executive Member

“People shouldn’t be dying from the air they breathe in 21st Century Britain. The Government needs to act to stop this now. That is why I am calling for a new Clean Air Act, to give local authorities and city regions the powers they need to curb air pollution.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell, Deputy Leader of Brighton and Hove Council and Chair of the Environment, Transport, and Sustainability Committee

In Brighton and Hove we have seen an encouraging improvement in air quality across the city over the last few years, but we have much more to do. Helping transport operators clean up their fleets makes a real difference. The Clean Air Act for the 21st Century must recognise the vital role sustainable transport has to play.”

More information can be found in SERA’s campaign publication ‘A Breath of Fresh Air | A Clean Air Act for the 21st Century’.