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There is no doubt that the UK is leading the world when it comes to tackling climate change. This Bill allows the Government to map out our path to be net zero by 2050. Progress is so important, as issues such as air quality are really impacting people’s lives today.
The World Health Organisation’s advice is that annual average particulate matter should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic meter. I was shocked to learn that we in Chichester averaged 9.09 in 2017. For those who do not know Chichester, we are a very protected area. Some 66% of the constituency is protected either via the area of outstanding natural beauty in the coastal area to the south or via the South Downs national park. Despite that, my constituency ranked 268th worst in the UK for air quality, so we need to do more to clean up our air.
Although I welcome the devolution of environmental protection plans, the national guidance needs to take into account the local environment. For example, Midhurst in my constituency is a small town in the heart of the South Downs. The area has poor air quality due to traffic, and it has failed indicative nitrogen oxide tests since 2015. Now the council is implementing air quality management areas, and a much-needed action plan is in place, but the levels needed to meet the requirements are too high for rural areas. Therefore, moving forward, I hope the Government will lower the thresholds required to get designation for rural areas.