With the release of the government’s ‘Clean Air Strategy 2019’ in January 2019, aiming to cut air pollution in half by 2030 and achieve zero emission for all road vehicles by 2050, local authorities are under increasing pressure to help in the fight to tackle the issue of toxic air locally. Intensifying this pressure is the conspicuous issue of tightening budgets for local government, with continuous reports of English councils on the cusp of 'exhausting' their cash reserves.
While Local Authorities are clearly under increasing pressure, the most alarming findings show that toxic air is having serious and sometimes detrimental effect on people’s lives. Research by the World Health Organisation estimates that 4.2 million deaths annually are a result of exposure to air pollution. Further research by the journal Environmental Research revealed that fine particles and other exhaust pollutants are known to cause inflammation in the brain, resulting in children from polluted areas being 7% more likely to experience anxiety.
The above concoction of risk to life, risk to health and tightening budgets inevitably sends alarm bells ringing for Local Government Officials, since together, they directly affect local populations and the durability of the council.
What is the Government Doing to Help?
The positive news is that the Government are stepping up their approach to supporting local authorities in reducing air pollution. As of March 2018, they have provided councils with a £220 million ‘Clean Air Fund’ to aid them in reducing roadside emissions which is part of a larger £260 million+ package to improve air quality. Around 2.3 million of the Clean Air Fund has been pumped into the ‘Air Quality Grant’ which represents a promising sign from the government in which local authorities are able to submit projects in a bid for a share of the Grant. This is promising because it is not an attempt to throw money at councils; it instead ensures that councils are becoming engaged in the first phase of their respective environmental strategies which are made possible and sustainable by the grant.
How Are Local Authorities Responding to the Clean Air Strategy?
Over the past few years, there have been some excellent examples of local projects and collaborations, which are making a real difference to reducing air pollution. West Sussex County Council have established a joint approach to tackling air pollution along with 12 other local councils across Sussex. They have pooled capital and shared resources to increase efficiency and improve outcomes, resulting in reduced carbon emissions by 46% from a baseline set in 2011/12. Furthermore, London Borough of Hackney- winners of the Vehicle Fleet Air Quality Initiative of the Year Award at the National Air Quality Awards 2018 demonstrate how a fleet strategy has supported the 'Air Quality Action Plan'. The council have been using renewable biofuel in their vehicles, which has seen Hackney cut CO2 production by 25% in a year.
This article was written by Elin Sams