Air pollution and climate change are closely linked. Our strategy for cleaner air recognises that our “road to zero” strategy tackles several of the issues that were raised in the report. In addition, our future energy, heat and industrial policies, including phasing out coal-fired power stations and improving energy efficiency, show that we can do stuff by working together for air quality and climate change.
The Committee on Climate Change has been scathing about the Government’s abysmal response to the UK’s seriously poor air quality, citing the fact that we are now on course to miss the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. Many of us struggle to breathe due to air pollution, and around 50,000 people die prematurely each year, while the Government have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds defending their record in the courts. When will they get a grip and put forward a workable and funded air quality strategy of the sake of my residents in York?
Overall air quality has actually been improving, and the hon. Lady will be aware that our legal challenge is on roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration. I am sure she will want to respond to the clean air strategy, which is ambitious and will achieve a lot of the outcomes we all want, wherever we live in this country, so that we have better air.
The Government’s “road to zero” strategy, published earlier this week, provides clarity on the role that cleaner diesel vehicles can play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and meeting ever more stringent air quality standards. My hon. Friend will be aware that we continue to have the policy to end the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040.
As the Minister has just acknowledged, diesel road vehicles are one of the primary causes of air pollution. Reducing our reliance on cars would not only reduce harmful emissions but help to tackle climate change, congestion and noise pollution. Those are problems not just in urban areas but in rural areas. Is she aware of the Campaign for National Parks research into making car-free travel to and within our national parks easier? Will she support its call for a smarter travel national park pilot?
I am not aware of that call about the national parks, but I am sure that the hon. Lady recognises the £3.5 billion being invested in improving air quality—a lot of it in changing transport mode to more buses, which I know she is a fan of, and through more cycling and walking. We continue to want to implement that.
The tragic death of a nine-year-old is the first death to be directly linked to illegal levels of air pollution. The lawyer representing the family has said:
“The Government has willingly presided over illegal EU air quality limits since 2010 and this ongoing failure is costing lives.”
Does the Secretary of State agree?
The death from asthma of Ella Kissi-Debrah is absolutely tragic. It is important to say that this is part of an ongoing legal assessment, and it has not yet been conclusively linked to air pollution, but I am fully aware of the impact that poor air quality can have, and that is why this Government are acting on it.
According to UNICEF, more than 4.5 million children in the UK are growing up in areas with toxic levels of air pollution. It is unacceptable that the most vulnerable members of society, who contribute the least to air pollution, are the ones suffering most from its effect. Will the Minister accept that this is a children’s health crisis? What urgent targeted action and funding to reduce child exposure have the Government committed to?
I recognise that this is a challenge, and that is why the Government are addressing it so clearly. The clean air strategy has come out, and the issue that UNICEF refers to is particulate matter. Under current EU rules, we are not in any way breaching the levels set out, but we have recognised that we have to take action. Some 40% of particulate matter comes from domestic burning, which is why we will be consulting on measures later this summer.