The independent London newspaper

We need a clean air act urgently

11 May, 2017

• AS a mother of young children in Camden, the topic of unacceptably high air pollution levels has been of increasing concern to me over the years and as the election approaches it is heartening to see that Keir Starmer has made the improvement of our air quality one of his top priorities.

As we walk along the high street we see smog from the top of Parliament Hill: air pollution is obvious, and we can’t escape it.

Science supports what has been long suspected: the air we breathe was responsible for the death of 9,500 Londoners last year; in central London, children have up to 10 per cent less lung capacity than is normal; in Camden six out of 10 state secondary schools, and 36 out of 43 state primary schools are in areas with illegal air pollution levels.

Camden Council is now engaging with the problems we face more fully than ever before. Sadiq Khan has doubled funding, delivering the new toxicity charge from October, and with plans to expand the ultra-low emission zone for all vehicles from 2021.

Now, in Keir Starmer we have a voice at national level absolutely committed to bringing about an urgently needed clean air act. Clearly this is the kind of engaged, responsive and caring approach that we need in government.

Contrast this with the Conservative government’s brazen refusal to take this public health emergency seriously.

Having been defeated three times in court over their failure to address toxic air, the Conservatives were obliged last week to publish their strategy, and presented an ill thought-through collection of almost entirely toothless measures: making a mockery not only of the High Court ruling that required them to come up with a plan but of the health of society’s frailest, many of them children, who don’t have a vote.

The proposals are so weak and poorly thought out that they drew criticism from all corners, other than the car industry!

James Thornton, CEO of legal NGO Client Earth, the organisation who took the government to court, called the plan “shocking in its inadequacy’ and conceded that “we will still be faced with illegal air quality for years to come under these proposals”.

It is easy to feel disheartened in the current political climate, both nationally and internationally, but this clear commitment from Keir Starmer and the Labour Party, to bring about a clean air act is a cause for optimism.

Islip Street, NW5


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