Thank you for contacting me about air quality.
It is encouraging that air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010. Emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 33 per cent and are at their lowest level since records began, however, there is still more to do, including in our area.
Newton Abbot still breaches acceptable limits in some areas and that must change. Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK, and children are particularly vulnerable. This is due to both being nearer in height to vehicle exhaust pipes, where many particulates originate and also lungs which are still developing. Air pollution is estimated to cost society £1.7 billion every year to 2020, which will rise to £5.3 billion through to 2030. This includes the cost of treating related illnesses.4
I am therefore pleased that the Government has put in place a £3.8 billion plan to improve air quality and create cleaner transport. This includes nearly a £1.5 billion investment to support the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles; £1.2 billion to increase cycling and walking and make our roads safer for vulnerable users; and £880 million to help local authorities develop and implement local air quality plans and to support those impacted by these plans. This funding is in addition to a further £2.5 billion to support a number of cities improve their local transport systems through the Transforming Cities Fund.
I am also pleased that at the Budget in March, the Chancellor announced a £304 million investment in capital over next two years to combat roadside pollution, enabling local authorities to take steps to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.
You may be aware that the Government’s Clean Air Strategy aims to cut air pollution and save lives, backed up by new primary legislation. The Strategy details how the UK will go further and faster than the EU in reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution. It sets out a goal to halve the number of people living in locations with concentrations of particulate matter above WHO guidelines and I am encouraged that it has been described by the WHO as 'an example for the rest of the world to follow'.
The Environment Bill builds on this Strategy and sets an ambitious, legally binding target to reduce fine particulate matter, and increase local powers to address sources of air pollution. This target will be among the most ambitious in the world and improve the quality of millions of people’s lives.
I believe that we can improve air quality further in our area by improving air quality testing, which is a subject I have raised recently in Parliament. Additionally, we should be embracing electric buses and encouraging more use of private electric cars by improving our on-street charging facilities. I support the existing schemes that the Government has made available to assist local authorities in this, and to help families with the cost of installing electric vehicle charging facilities at home.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.