GWYNNE BLOG: We need a national framework to back low emissions zones

clean air boardThe air pollution in our towns and cities is stunting the growth of children’s lungs in ways which will affect them for the rest of their lives. That’s why the next Labour Government will deliver a national framework for low emissions zones in every town and city that needs one.

This is a problem crying out for Government action yet in the past four years we have seen progress stall or reverse despite warnings from the Chief Medical Officer. Where we have seen progress is at a local level, where community groups, local authorities and universities have developed their own strategies to deal with the problem. But these local low emissions zone plans simply can’t be delivered until Government provides a national framework.

The Government has had four years to respond to one of the most important risks to health in the UK. Instead their approach been described by the “Healthy Air Campaign” which includes organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and Asthma UK, as “designed to mask the true scale of England’s air quality crisis rather than make any attempt to solve it”.

The fact is that the UK suffers from illegal levels of air pollution – in 2010, 40 out of 43 zones failed to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide. 16 cities and regions – including areas in Greater Manchester such as those around the M60 and M67 through Denton and Audenshaw – will not meet these limits until 2020 or in the case of London, 2025.

If your home or your child’s school backs on to a main road or if your commute regularly takes you onto congested roads then you are exposed to increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. This is simply wrong. Everyone should have the right to breathe clean air- but it is the responsibility of central Government- not just the responsibility of Local Authorities to tackle the causes of air pollution.

Local Authorities want to implement various forms of Low Emission Zones but are being discouraged because there is no support from national Government. Indeed, Tory MPs just aren’t aware of the problem. Air pollution kills more than 10 times more people than road traffic accidents.  Yet last year, two-thirds of Conservative MPs responded to a survey saying road traffic accidents are a bigger risk.

Under a Labour Government, we will provide the support for councils that we desperately need.

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