Greens say Clean Air Day pledges still fall short
Slow progress on plans for a council led Clean Air Day – scheduled for 22nd September – must be urgently reviewed if the Labour Council is serious about meeting the council’s carbon neutral targets, Greens have said.
A request for a council-led ‘Clean Air Day,’ was agreed at a meeting of Full Council in February 2018, with Greens also raising the lack of planning for air quality action days at a June meeting of Environment committee.
Greens have welcomed a council communications plan calling on residents to consider cycling and low-carbon transport as an option for travel in the city, but consider that this adds nothing new. News that little practical action will be taken by the city council to coincide with world Car Free Day (22nd September) or the Youth Climate Strikes (20th September) is ‘deeply disappointing.’
Government reports indicate that around 40,000 people die each year as a result of air pollution in the U.K. Latest analysis from Public Health England indicates that 2.4m new cases of disease will be caused by air pollution as soon as 2035 if current levels of toxic air persist, with children, the elderly and those in more deprived areas particularly affected.
Brighton and Hove is one of 40 UK cities and towns listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that is at, or breaching, safe air pollution limits. ‘Hotspots’ in the city such as Queens Road, Western Road and Rottingdean High Street routinely breach U.K and E.U limits for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas that along with other pollutants is primarily emitted by vehicles. Nitrogen dioxide has also been identified as contributing to premature deaths and lung cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable, and damage can be permanent and life-limiting.
Pointing to actions taken by other councils – including news that the Mayor of London will close 20km of roads – as well as similar efforts from Hastings Borough Council and Aberdeen Council, Greens say Labour must do more to demonstrate their commitment to tackling air pollution and climate emergency.
Green Councillor Amy Heley, who had requested an update on plans at the June meeting of the council’s Environment committee, said:
“In February 2018 we called on Labour to create a Clean Air Day event, as a way to support residents who need action on toxic emissions. Later, we were pleased to see that the Labour Council agreed to declare a climate emergency – and also support the Green proposal to set a target of a carbon neutral city by 2030, to tackle climate change.
“18 months on and we are left concerned that Labour has still failed to deliver on one of the more basic clean air pledges – we have yet to receive a report outlining our council’s options for participation in Car Free Day, as requested.
“There are many actions we can take to create lasting change. Greens are prepared to work constructively with the Labour Group to deliver action on our environment and to help tackle the climate emergency. Given the scale of the problem, our residents will urgently need reassurance that Labour Council are prepared to meet the challenge. We cannot wait 18 months or more for action when particular issues are raised. If not now, when?”