UK’s North-South Divide on Air Pollution ‘A Threat to Economies and Health’

May 6, 2021

The delayed introduction of measures to tackle the UK’s air pollution crisis will exacerbate the glaring health inequalities and entrench the north-south divide, according to a March 24, 2021 report in The Guardian.

Several local authorities in the north have scrapped or deferred plans to introduce clean air zones, regarded as the best way to tackle toxic air, while cities in other parts of the UK are pressing ahead with the schemes to limit dirty vehicles.

report published on Wednesday, March 24 from the Green Alliance thinktank finds that failing to address dangerous levels of air pollution will worsen public health and damage regional economies. Experts have also warned that rising air pollution exacerbates the risk from Covid-19.

“There’s a strong economic case for clean air zones and the north is once again set to lose out,” said Philippa Borrowman from Green Alliance. “Over the next couple of years, as the UK economy recovers from the pandemic, clean air could become yet another factor that divides the country and leads to different life chances.”

In 2018, judges told the government to bring air pollution levels within legal limits in the shortest possible time, after being taken to court three times by Client Earth, an environmental charity

Ministers directed 37 local authorities to develop plans for clean air zones, but Wednesday’s report says that while schemes are going ahead in Bristol, Birmingham and London, many northern cities are lagging behind.

Leeds cancelled its planned zone during the pandemic and the report says several other cities including Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester are yet to finalise their schemes.

Borrowman said: “Local authorities must now take action to reduce dangerous air pollution, by consulting with communities and businesses to ensure policies are implemented fairly and effectively.”

The study found that by tackling clean air, cities would benefit from a healthier environment, saving thousands of lives and reducing long-term illness for millions of people. This would have a huge knock-on economic benefit, from reduced hospital admissions and GP visits to more active lifestyles and fewer sick days.

The report highlights findings that show Greater Manchester’s economy would have been boosted by £25m this year if it had committed to its initial plans, while Birmingham expects to gain around £50m.

What this means to you

A report published from the Green Alliance thinktank finds that failing to address dangerous levels of air pollution will worsen public health and damage regional economies. Experts have also warned that rising air pollution exacerbates the risk from Covid-19.

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