In light of evidence on the detrimental impacts of air pollution on children’s ability to learn, we will be exploring solutions to improve air quality and the role that schools, businesses as well as local and national authorities can all play. The meeting will include presentations from:
Chris Large Co-Ceo, Global Action Plan
Dr Luke Munford & Professor Martie Van Tongeren, University of Manchester
Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of Environment and Research, FIA Foundation
Gemma McHenry, Project Manager, Philips Foundation
Steve Marsland, Head Teacher, Russell Scott Primary
With a new Committee deadline for the Environment Bill set in December 21st, the APPG took the opportunity to have an in-depth look with Minister Rebecca Pow.
Guest panellists Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians special adviser on air quality and Professor Elouise Scotford, Environmental Law at UCL gave their analysis of the Bill for their distinct professional points of view.
WATCH THE MEETING IN FULL :
Geraint Davies, Chair of the APPG, opened the meeting by calling for legally binding targets that can protect public health, to protect the environment and to protect the economy by giving businesses regulatory framework.
Minister Rebecca Pow acknowledged thatair pollutionis the single greatest environmental risk to human health. The Environment Bill, she noted, is the biggest piece of legislation to come through the Houses of Parliament is around two decades. In its current draft the Bill sets a legal duty on government to set a legally binding target on fine particulate matter, which has the most significant impact on human health. It also sets a duty to set an additional long-term target on air pollution.
A new paper published in August sets out how the government will focus on reducing average population exposure, which Minister Pow said was an innovative approach. Minister Pow argued that adopting WHO guideline limits in the Bill would be too simplistic. Before setting the targets the government plan to launch a public consultation to inform their decision and MPs will have a chance to scrutinise the targets before they are set in secondary legislation.
Aside from the targets, Minister Pow noted the additional powers that would be given to local authorities, giving them a framework for tackling air pollution. One of these will ensure that information is shared across multiple levels of local government to help tackle pollution. It will also give local authorities the powers to take action to stop people repeatedly emitting smoke without the need for long and costly legal battles in the courts. Plus, the Bill tightens control around solid fuels and gives powers to local authorities to stop them being burnt in smoke control areas, like on river barges for example.
Minister Pow, however, said that the Environment Bill was only one tool to tackle air pollution along with a wider context of measures that have been put in place, most notably through the Clean Air Strategy. A new one is due to be published and the Strategy will continue to be reviewed every five years.
In line with discussions with the Chair of the APPG, the government is doing a review of indoor air pollution with Public Health England and are looking at targeted interventions. The Air Quality Expert Group will be producing a report on indoor air quality focusing on fine particular matter and volatile organic compounds.
Due to the pandemic this year, the government is reviewing the link between air pollution and Covid-19, such as the link between deaths from Covid-19 and long-term exposure to air pollution. Also, the government is looking into impact of lockdown and air quality. The Minister noted that through the pandemic the government has promoted active travel and given funding to local authorities to improve cycle lanes.
Professor Stephen Holgate made clear that public health needs to be centre of the bill, noting in particular the damage it had on the growth of babies’ lungs. He said that more needed to be made of the biology behind the threat of fine particles need much more emphasis and there needed to be greater analysis of the toxicology of particles, rather than talking generally about particles as if particles from diesel to ammonia to burnt toast were all the same. He noted that only by understanding the differential threat can we better tackle the biggest offended.
Prof Holgate lamented that the responsibility for air pollution had been devolved to national governments and Public Health England and suggested instead there should be a joined-up approach which is health focussed and places responsibilities on Transport, Planning and Housing as well as DEFRA to deliver enforceable WHO standards
While the Bill prepares to hand over more powers to local authorities, Professor Holgate pointed out that three councils – Southampton, Leeds and Coventry have abandoned planned Clean Air Zones for lack of government cash and new Covid-19 responsibilities.
Professor Eloise Scotford said the structure of the Environment Bill allows for ambitious targets to be created, yet there is also an opportunity for delay and a lowering of standards over time. The Bill therefore needs to include an objective for target setting, which for air quality needs to be around the highest level of public and environmental health. There also needs to be some signal as to when and how new targets will be set going forward. There is also a risk of their being a two-track of environmental standards, between the ones we currently have and the new ones the government will bring forward, where it seems the former will be more enforceable. Prof Scotford suggests interim targets would help plug that gap.
Prof Scotford agreed that more structures to encourage local authorities and public bodies to coordinate is a helpful step forward. Yet she noted that local authorities don’t always have competence over pollution sources like major road building, fuel duty and subsidies for cleaner transport or nearby industry and agriculture so the Bill should ensure that central government ultimately remain responsible for cleaner air.
These statements were followed by a Q&A, where audience members made up of doctors, academics, lawyers, journalists, environmental experts, local leaders, MPs and peers were able to ask questions to the panel.
Following the success of the Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus report in July, the APPG held its second virtual meeting which included a video launch for the strategy and panel discussion with Global Action and Businesses from the Clean Air Taskforce.
Context of the meeting:
• The impact of business on the UK’s air quality • What the UK public expect of government and business on air pollution, since Coronavirus • What businesses can do to reduce air pollution and #Act4Cleanair • Government measures that can accelerate the response from the private sector to address air pollution
Global Action Plan, Larissa Lockwood, Head of Air Quality and Chris Large, Co-CEO. The full presentation can be found here
Philips UKI & Philips Foundation, Mark Leftwich, Director, Personal Health.
Zehnder Group UK, Ben Simons, Country Manager, Clean Air Solutions. The full presentation can be found here
Octopus Electric Vehicles, Fiona Howarth, CEO. The full presentation can be found here
DEFRA, Anna Sargeant, Deputy Head, Air Quality and Industrial Emissions. The full presentation can be found here
MP’s in Attendance
John McNally MP Christine Jardine MP Sarah Britcliffe MP Tony Lloyd MP Peter Dowd MP Fleur Anderson MP Neale Hanvey MP
Air Pollution All Party Parliamentary Group Zoom meeting took place on Friday 29th May, Air Pollution & Coronavirus
Academic research & post-lockdown strategy
COVID death & infection rates and air pollution
Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health Xiao Wu, doctoral student, and Rachel Nethery, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Queen Mary University of London Jonathan Grigg, Professor of paediatricrespiratory and environmental medicine York University Alastair Lewis, Professor of atmospheric chemistryand Chair of the Defra Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus Infection.
The APPG launched its Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus Infection as we emerge from Lockdown in order to keep air pollution low and to deliver World Health Organisation Air Quality Standards.
A cross-party group of 90 MP and Peers has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to back a clean air strategy to reduce the risk of coronavirus and to set about an economic recovery that puts public health and the environment centre stage.
The letter refers to the report based on proposals from scientists, businesses, local authorities and MPs and cites research from Harvard and Queen Mary London universities that pollution is linked with higher COVID-19 death and infection rates.
Harvard showed that 1 micro-gramme per cubic metre increase in PM2.5 particulates equates an 8% increase in COVID deaths and Queen Mary that air pollution stimulates the receptors in the nose and throat that catch the infection.
The proposals include safer more frequent public transport, cleaner private transport, more pedestrian space and cycling, a clamp-down on wood and coal burning, improvements in indoor air quality, less polluting machinery, a reduction in ammonia fertilisers and the adoption of World Health Organisation air quality targets.
Geraint Davies MP, Chair of the APPG on Air Pollution said,
“Air pollution already kills 62,000 people prematurely in the UK each year. It damages hearts and lungs which accounts for the higher death rate from coronavirus in polluted neighbourhoods.
“These neighbourhoods are more likely to be poorer with a higher proportion of black and minority ethnic minority BAME communities. The latest research also shows that pollution increases infection rates and may even transport the virus.
“Therefore, it is vitally important that the Prime Minister acts immediately on the emerging science and our wide-ranging proposals backed by scientists, businesses, local authorities and 90 Parliamentarians.
“Air pollution already costs the economy £20 billion and these proposals are capable of generating export income, tax revenue and substantial NHS savings.”
The APPG today launched its Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus Infection during its first digital meeting, which heard from academics, from three universities, who presented research that showed higher severity and frequency of Covid cases caused by air pollution and examined how lockdown has reduced air pollution exposure.
Geraint Davies, the APPG Chair, presented the report, written using evidence from scientists, businesses and local authorities. It comprised of twelve sets of proposals including the continuation of home working, increasing spaces for pedestrian and cyclists, more frequent public transport services to avoid crowding, improvements in indoor air quality and the adoption of World Health Organisation air quality targets.
He noted that, in regards to research that air pollution is linked to more severe Covid cases and increased vulnerability of catching the virus, these proposals aim to avoid, or minimise, a second peak in infection as lockdown measures are reduced. Further, they set a clear pathway for a healthier, greener recovery.
Watch the Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus virus event below:
Xiao Wu, doctoral student, and Rachel Nethery, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics from Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health presented their research into the impact of air pollution on the severity of COVID-19 to explain differences in COVID-19 mortality rates. It shows that a 1 micro-gramme per cubic metre increase in PM2.5 particulates equates to a significant increase in infection rates and an 8% increase in COVID deaths. The full presentation can be foundhere.
Jonathan Grigg, Professor of paediatric at Queen Mary University of London, presented research showing air pollution increases vulnerability to SARS-CoV-2 infection, highlighting a biological link between air pollution and Covid-19 . His presentation can be found here.
Alastair Lewis, Professor of atmospheric chemistry at York University and Chair of the DEFRA Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), presented extracts from AQEQ’s rapid evidence review on air pollution learning from Covid-19 lockdown. His presentation can be found here.
The risk is that once lockdown is lifted, more people may opt for personal private modes of transport in order to protect themselves from catching the virus, therefore increasing the levels of pollution.
We therefore would like to develop an Exit Strategy that can demonstrate how government, local authorities, businesses and individuals can adapt so that we reduce our pollution long term.
If you have evidence to submit then please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title ‘Submit evidence for Clean Air Exit Strategy’ by Wednesday, May 6. Please submit as a document with references for any points or evidence given. Due to time restrictions evidence will not be sourced if not provided.
Annual General Meeting
Geraint Davies welcomed attendees and thanked the panel for taking part.
Geraint Davies was re-appointed as Chairman of the APPG on Air Pollution with unanimous support. The appointments of officers and Vice-chairman were as follows.
John McNally – (Vice Chair)
Helen Hayes MP – (Vice Chair)
Dr Dan Poulter MP – (Vice Chair)
Karen Buck MP – (Vice Chair)
Claudia Webbe – (Vice Chair)
Baroness Jones of Mouslecoomb – (Vice Chair)
Chairman welcomed the appointment of Vice-Chairman and returning officers to the first APPG meeting of 2020 and introduced the panel of speakers.
Professor Steven Holgate
Stephen is Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, with a research interest in the mechanisms of asthma and allergy. He has over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications and an h-index of 157. He has been President of the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, the British Thoracic Society and is currently President of the British Association for Lung Research and the Collegium Internationale Allergologicum.
He has been Chair of the MRC Population & Systems Medicine Board, the MRC Translational Research Group, a member of the MRC and NERC Strategy Boards, and chaired the Main Panel A (Medical & Life Sciences) of Research Excellence Framework 2014. Stephen chaired the UK Government Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, the Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards, the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee and was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
Greg has been with T&E since 2012. He was previously the director of Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, a UK public-private partnership promoting the shift to clean vehicles and fuels. He has also worked as a non-executive director for the UK Government’s Renewable Fuels Agency and Cenex, a centre of excellence for low carbon technologies.
Having led T&E’s clean vehicles program for six years, Greg now heads up our campaigns in the UK. A chemist by training, Greg describes himself as a “pragmatic environmentalist”.
Has represented individuals and groups in a number of public interest cases, including judicial reviews, (for example, challenging government policy on nuclear power, the government’s decision to support a 3rd runway at Heathrow and to pursue HS2), other High Court cases (for example representing Labour Party members who were denied a vote in the 2016 leadership contest), Information Tribunal hearings (for example whether the Duchy of Cornwall is a public authority and the meaning of “environmental information”), the European Court of Justice and other international fora (including the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and the Aarhus Compliance Committee). In 2014 she was picked for her litigation skills in the “Lawyer Hot 100”.
Stephen Holgate Presentation
The Chairman thanked Steven Holgate for an interesting presentation looking at the effects of indoor air pollution. The Chairman also highlighted that the government has announced 40 million pounds to tackle air pollution and would like to see more done to tackle this issue.
Greg Archer Presentation
The Chairman thanked Greg Archer for the presentation and mentioned the need for a ‘Clean Air Bill’ to be adopted into government’s environment bill. The Chairman referred to enforcement in the clean air bill and raised revenue from fines should go towards the NHS and to Local Authority budgets.
Kate Harrison Presentation
The Chairman thanked Kate Harrison for the presentation and moved to the public session of the agenda.
Public session key points:
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah (Co-Founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation) – Monitoring of air pollution by government agencies and Local Authorities is ‘woeful’. There is no detailed reference to health in the government’s Environment Bill.
Jenny Bates (Friends of the Earth campaigner)
The UK must work with its friends and partners around the world and be an international player on tackling Air Quality. Opportunity at COP26 to demonstrate to the world that progress has been made.
Claudia Webbe (MP for Leicester East)
Thanked Greg Archer for presentation and argues that more work needs to be done outside of London to tackle air quality from polluting vehicles, particularly with diesel vehicles and the impact of health on children.
The Chairman responded by saying a national campaign is needed. Greg Archer mentions that traffic is the main contributor to air pollution.
Kate Harrison – Local Authorities should be properly funded and given more control over highway networks outside of London in order to monitor and then control air pollution.
Steven Holgate made the closing statement
Opportunity for government’s chief scientists to present to the public the facts around air pollution.
The Chairman thanked speakers and members of the public for attending the first APPG on Air Pollution meeting 2020.
APPG Chair Geraint Davies MP welcomed attendees and introduced the panel. The #Act4CleanAir campaign was launched with a video that features a cross-party group of MPs reading the Time manifesto pledges. All of these provisions were included in Mr Davies Clean Air Bill, which had been presented earlier that day and he briefly outlined.
The first panellist was Ben Webster, environment editor of The Times. Ben explained the origin of The Times’ Clean Air Campaign, and his own role and experience of wearing a personal air monitor. He outlined the targets the campaign had set and the support it had received from politicians.
Gary Fuller of Kings College spoke next. He emphasised the health impacts of air pollution, the ‘invisible killer’. He called for a holistic approach to tackling the problem rather than targetting only on one pollutant at a time. There was also a need to focus on continuously reducing pollution levels, not just complying with limit values. And he was encouraged by the rising public engagement with the issue.
Simon Birkett of Clean Air London was the next speaker. He stressed the need for clean air to be a legal human right, and criticised Defra for its weak responses to rising concern over air pollution, including the recent Air Quality Strategy which he felt a not robust enough. He noted that there were currently six clean air bills being put forward in Parliament.
Baroness Bryony Worthington was the fourth speaker. She talked about the Clean Air Bill which she was sponsoring in the Lords, and argued that the core issue was combustion in urban environments and that this should be the real focus of legislation.
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Founder at The Ella Roberta Family Foundation, was the final speaker. She spoke of her daughter’s death due to asthma triggered by air pollutants, and that her tragedy was but one of many thousands given the scale of public health impacts. Radical action was needed.
The Chair then opened the meeting up for Q and A and discussion. In the debate that followed, points made included:
Whether the various Bills include measures to improve indoor air quality? The panel explained that did and others didn’t.
The decline in new vehicle diesel sales and the responsibilities of the motor industry in tackling air pollution
The reason for the Tines picking a 2030 deadline to end sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles. Ben Webster explained that 2030 matched the deadline chosen by several other advanced economies and therefore should be feasible, though an argument could be made for shortening the timescale further. Sandy Martin MP emphasised that changes such as the ban often needed effort and compromise to get sufficient support among stakeholders and in Parliament to deliver, however much they were supported by APPG members.
The need to tackle shipping emissions, which in many cases were unregulated.
The role of active travel and green infrastructure, along with tougher controlled parking policies.
The meeting concluded with a discussion about how best to maximise public engagement. Karen Buck MP pointed out that public support was needed to enable tough policy actions to curb pollution, and the panel agreed that more public engagement was needed.
The Clean Air Bill, supported by 120 parliamentarians, can be downloaded here
Watch the Clean Air Bill and The Time’s Clean Air Manifesto video below:
Following are the MPs who contributed to the video: