News release: Air pollution in Greater Manchester… we need urgent action from Government and GM Mayor

26th February 2019
news
release

Responding to Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan, Manchester Friends of the Earth are dismayed that Greater Manchester will not tackle illegal levels of air pollution before 2024. [1]

Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country – Central Manchester and North Manchester NHS trusts have emergency admissions at double the national average. And evidence shows that the most vulnerable people and those living in disadvantaged areas are at greater risk from air pollution.

In July 2017, the UK government published a plan to tackle roadside air pollution which required local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution to set out initial plans by the end of March 2018 and final plans by the end of December 2018 to reduce air pollution in the ‘shortest time possible’. [2]

But Greater Manchester will not have a plan in place before the end of 2019 and is not planning to achieve legally compliant air quality levels before 2024.

Research by Kings College London for an IPPR North report published in June 2018 estimated that the annual “cost to the Greater Manchester economy is huge. The KCL study shows that air pollution is costing between £1 billion and £1.2 billion with every single local authority area affected.” [3]

Pete Abel from Manchester Friends of the Earth said ““Air pollution is responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year in Greater Manchester, and is a huge burden on the NHS.”

“The government’s own evidence is that the most effective measures are Clean Air Zones covering all polluting vehicles. This must be introduced as soon as possible, along with measures to help people out of their cars and into cleaner methods of transport.”

“Everyone has the right to clean air and the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan says air pollution is a ‘public health emergency’. We need urgent action to reduce air pollution in the shortest time possible”.

The GM Clean Plan recognises that air pollution is a “public health emergency” but rules out a Clean Air Zone that includes all polluting vehicles on the grounds of cost and lack of effectiveness compared to other options.

Clarification from the European Union regarding the air quality directive highlighted that air quality “limit values create an obligation of result which is unconditional and absolute, irrespective of costs (Article 2, paragraphs 5 and 9).(Emphasis added). [4]

Manchester Friends of the Earth believes that there is little recognition from national Government of the scale or urgency of Greater Manchester’s air pollution crisis and we are calling for urgent action by both local and national government to quickly and drastically improve air quality including:

Clean Air Zones which must be come into effect rapidly and must include all vehicle types. Effective Clean Air Zones will lead to fewer, and cleaner cars on our roads, safer streets, more welcoming neighbourhoods and, vitally, healthier lungs for our children.

The UK must phase out high polluting diesel and petrol vehicles, more rapidly than the government propose – by 2030, rather than 2040. There must also be a government-led scrappage scheme to help people move away from the most polluting vehicles (with car club membership and alternatives to driving such as rail season tickets being offered), and motor manufacturers who have contributed to the UK’s air pollution crisis should be made to cough up to help fund such a scheme.

Road traffic needs to be reduced – to meet climate change targets as well as those for air pollution. Traffic generating schemes such as airport expansion and road building / widening which would add to the air pollution problem must be scrapped.

Investment in clean, affordable and reliable public transport.

An improvement in infrastructure to support alternatives to driving, such as safe cycling and walking.

ENDS

Contact for comment: Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth, clean air campaigner. Mobile: 07951 642858

Notes for Editors

1)    Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan – Tackling Nitrogen Dioxide Exceedances at the Roadside – Outline Business Case.  See item 7.

2)    See UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations

  1. Following the publication of this plan, the UK government will take steps in order to ensure that Clean Air Zone timetables are still the earliest achievable. If local authorities adopt a charging scheme, the UK government modelling suggests that local authorities could achieve statutory NO2 limit values in most cases by 2021. We will require local authorities to develop local plans and implement them at pace so that air quality limits are achieved within the shortest possible time. We will now require local authorities to set out initial plans 8 months from now, by the end of March 2018. These will be followed by final plans by the end of December 2018.

3)    “Atmosphere: Towards a proper strategy for tackling Greater Manchester’s air pollution crisis” report from IPPR North, June 2018.

The cost to the Greater Manchester economy is huge. The KCL study shows that air pollution is costing between £1 billion and £1.2 billion with every single local authority area affected.

4)    Clarification provided by the European Commission relating to provisions contained within Directive 2008/50/EC namely that:

a) limit values must indeed be complied with throughout the territory of any given air quality zone, and compliance should not be determined nor assessed as an “average” of concentrations measured in different locations within the same zone.”

b) Unlike target values, which create an objective to be achieved “where possible” or “where not entailing disproportionate costs”, limit values create an obligation of result which is unconditional and absolute, irrespective of costs (Article 2, paragraphs 5 and 9).(Emphasis added)

5)    Manchester Friends of the Earth is an award-winning environmental campaign group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on the group’s website: www.manchesterfoe.org.uk

Manchester Friends of the Earth is a Licensed Local Group of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. www.foe.co.uk