Health Legal Issues

UK Policy Makers Admit They Can’t Reach Pollution Targets

The UK government has been grappling with the issue of air pollution for decades now. In 2023, Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey made a startling admission—the UK was unable to achieve the air pollution target recommended by experts. This news has far-reaching implications for the country’s health, environment, and economy.

What Is the Air Pollution Target?

In 2019, the UK government set itself an ambitious target to reduce levels of tiny particulate matter (PM2.5)—the most harmful air pollutant—to less than 10 micrograms/m3 by 2030. This is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), which states that this level should not be exceeded to protect public health. 

Air pollution experts have highlighted scientific studies conducted by King’s College London and Imperial College London. These studies suggest that the government could attain stricter pollution targets, which are widely supported by the public, if it implemented stronger measures to address the sources of pollution, such as diesel cars and wood-burning activities.

What Went Wrong?

Despite some progress made in reducing air pollution levels in recent years, it is clear that the government has struggled to implement effective measures to tackle the problem. One of the main reasons for this has been the lack of political will to take bold action. The government has been reluctant to implement some of the most effective measures, such as introducing a diesel scrappage scheme, which would help to remove some of the most polluting vehicles from the roads.

Another issue has been the failure to address the problem of air pollution on a national level. The government has tended to focus on specific areas, such as London, where air pollution levels are at their highest. However, this has resulted in a piecemeal approach that fails to tackle the wider problem across the whole country. Furthermore, there has been a lack of investment in public transport and infrastructure, which has led to a continued reliance on private cars.

The Consequences of Inaction

The UK government has, in the past, been criticised for its inaction in combating air pollution. The prime target of such criticism has been the government’s lack of action in holding manufacturers to account for diesel claims.

The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, which came to light in 2015, exposed how the automaker cheated on diesel emissions tests by installing software that made its cars appear less polluting than they were. The scandal was a wake-up call for regulators worldwide, but the UK government’s response has been severely criticised as not going far enough. 

The failure to meet the pollution target has significant consequences for both public health and the environment. Air pollution is responsible for over 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year, according to a study by the Royal College of Physicians.

It is also linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. Failure to tackle air pollution levels effectively will have a considerable impact on the health of the UK population.  is a valuable resource for diesel claims as it goes more into detail about the eligibility criteria and process.

In addition to the human cost, there is also a significant economic cost to air pollution. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimates that the cost of air pollution to the UK economy is around £20 billion per year. This includes the cost of healthcare, lost working days, and reduced productivity. Furthermore, there is a reputational cost to the UK for failing to address the problem of air pollution, which could harm tourism and other industries.

What Needs to Change?

For the UK to achieve its air pollution target, it is clear that more needs to be done. This includes introducing a range of measures to reduce emissions from transport, industry, and homes. The government needs to invest in cleaner forms of transport.

This means investing in infrastructure for cycling and walking and improving public transport networks. The use of electric vehicles also needs to be encouraged, and the government should introduce schemes to make them more affordable for the public.

The government needs to address the issue of traffic congestion. This means improving transport networks and investing in alternative forms of transport, as well as introducing congestion charges in cities where the problem is most acute.

However, it is not just the government’s responsibility to reduce air pollution. Citizens must also play an active role in reducing air pollution by adopting environmentally friendly practices. Simple steps like walking and cycling instead of driving, using public transport, and reducing unnecessary energy consumption can go a long way in reducing air pollution.

Air pollution is a severe health threat to millions of people in the UK, and the government must act fast to curb its impact. Time is of the essence, and every effort must be made to reduce air pollution to safer levels. Otherwise, the consequences may be catastrophic, not only for the UK but for the entire global community.

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