The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday (22 September) tightened its air quality guidelines for the first time since 2005, slashing recommended limits for air pollution and calling on global governments to tackle dirty air.
In light of this, the Green Party is urging the Government to do more to address air pollution, highlighting WHO’s new pollution emissions limits as a ‘wake-up call’ for the country.
WHO has issued new recommendations for particulate matter (PM2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are found in fossil fuel emissions. The body states that this could save ‘millions of lives’.
According to the new limits, average annual PM2 concentrations should be no more than five micrograms per cubic metre. The previous limit was set at an annual average of 10, but scientists have since discovered that long-term exposure to concentrations of that level still had negative health impacts.
Whilst meeting the new limits may not improve overall health, scientists stressed, it could work towards addressing health inequality, with low to middle-income countries reliant on fossil fuels disproportionately experiencing the effects of air pollution.
According to WHO, air pollution is the biggest threat to human health and is a public emergency, killing at least seven million people prematurely each year. In 2019, the body found that 90 per cent of the world’s population was breathing air considered polluted by its 2005 guidelines.
Caroline Russell, Green Party transport and healthy streets spokesperson, said:
“Slashing World Health Organisation (WHO) pollution emissions limits is a chance to inspire cities across the world both to protect people’s health and to take the urgent and ambitious action required to cut carbon emissions from transport.”
“We’ve seen years of inaction from our own government on this. Indeed, three times the government has faced legal action over its persistent failure to deal with illegal levels of air pollution across the country. These new limits must be a wake-up call for our government to do everything possible to reduce the need to travel, boost all forms of active travel and public transport and axe the £27bn road-building programme."