Today (7 September) is the UN’s International Day for Clean Air for blue skies, which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of air pollution and calls upon everyone – from businesses to governments to individuals – to take action to tackle it.
Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010. Emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 33% and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has fallen by 9%, but there is still much more to do.
The Independent reports today on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, with analysis claiming that NO2 limits were exceeded across 142 local authorities in 2019.
Tackling NO2 emissions is rightly a priority. NO2 is released into the atmosphere when fuels are burned, such as petrol or diesel in a car engine or natural gas in a power station.
The government has committed £3.8 billion to tackle NO2 pollution and clean up transport, including supporting the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles. £2.4 billion has also been invested through the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to get more people to travel by bike or on foot.
Working with local authorities
We are working closely with local authorities and have allocated £880 million of funding to help develop and implement local air quality plans. We have also placed legal duties on 62 local authorities in England to tackle their nitrogen dioxide exceedances.
Last week we announced the latest funding round in our Local Air Quality Grant Programme. This means local authorities can bid for a portion of at least £2 million for a range of projects to improve air quality – from testing the effectiveness of filter systems in schools, to raising awareness around domestic burning and the dangers of using coal and wet wood.
Applications for the grant close on 14 October 2020.