We all have a right to breathe clean air. But currently, in towns and cities across the UK people are living next to roadsides with illegal and harmful levels of toxic NO2. Our local authorities and mayors have powers to take action to protect us - for example, the incoming Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, and Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone. But beyond that, it’s vital that our national Government also takes responsibility. That is why Oxford City Council has put together a Cleaner Air Charter - a list of ten policies that they are calling on the UK Government to adopt, in order to tackle the environmental and health crisis brought on by polluted air.
With your help, we want to use this Charter to apply as much pressure as possible on the Government and push them to take action urgently. The aim is to get as many local authorities as possible signed on to the Charter - which can then be presented to the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove later this year.
Here’s why we need you to get your local councillors to support the Cleaner Air Charter:
- Air pollution from petrol and diesel vehicles is causing a public health crisis
Air pollution from vehicles, particularly diesel cars, can cause asthma in otherwise healthy children (1), stunt children’s lung growth (2), and is linked to strokes, heart disease and diabetes in older people (3). The health impacts of polluted air in the UK are estimated to cost the UK more than £20 billion every year (4).In 2016 around 40,000 lives were cut short by air pollution. More than 1000 nurseries nationwide are close to illegally polluting roads (5).
These stats are shocking, and show how urgently we need to get these polluting cars off our roads.
- If we don’t have a good plan for cleaning up our air, it makes it much harder to stop climate change
If we are serious about halting climate change, we need to stop using fossil fuels for transport as soon as possible. Transport contributes 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, the majority of which come from petrol and diesel cars (6). The Committee on Climate Change has already made it clear that if we aren’t more ambitious in phasing out petrol and diesel cars, we will not be able to meet our climate change targets enshrined in the Climate Change Act (7). If the UK agreed to a 2030 phase out for all new petrol and diesel cars as the Charter calls for, this would significantly reduce the gaps in meeting our next two carbon budgets and would reduce our dependence on oil (8). Clean air is not just about health, it’s also about the future of our planet.
- Showing how much public and political support there is for this Charter puts pressure on central Government to take action without delay
Cities like Oxford can set a great example to other authorities by taking tangible local action - such as through their Zero Emission Zone - and through raising their voice and increasing the pressure on national government with initiatives like this Charter. But ultimately we need leadership from the top, as well as action at the local level. The Government’s draft clean air strategy, which sets out their current plans for tackling air pollution, is not good enough- it shifts too much responsibility to local councils for cleaning up our air without providing adequate funding, skills or plans. Crucially, the Government is still committed to a 2040 date for the phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, while countries like China, Norway and the Netherlands are showing greater ambition in supporting the transition to electrified vehicles (9). The Government needs to start showing proper leadership on this issue.
The support of you and your local authority sends a clear message that Government needs to take action and fast. To find your councillors’ details so that you can get in touch with them, click here.
You could also look for council cabinet members with a brief that deals directly with the issue in hand. You might need to do some digging, as each council has different roles and division of responsibility: look for public health, the environment, transport or other related areas and contact these councillors directly.
Not every council will want to sign up to the Charter, but they may have a clean air plan or strategy for reducing air pollution in the town/city centre. If you have the opportunity to request a copy of their plan orask their position on local air pollution please do. We are currently looking at where the air pollution campaign could go next, and having an understanding of local council plans could be a really useful resource to add to our research.
If your local councillors are interested in signing up to the Charter, all they need to do is email Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Councillor and Executive Board member for a Safer and Greener Environment, who will be able to add your council to the list. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org - so feel free to share this with your local councillors when you get in touch.
Don’t forget to let us know if your council signs up to the Charter!
Clean Air Charter: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/oxfordcleaneraircharter