By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The government released their Clean Air Strategy on Monday, hoping to become the first major economy to adopt [World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines]https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health). They have set out new plans on air pollution, targetting farmers for the first time, diesel cars, and wood-burning stoves.
Under their plans, farmers will be required to adapt their techniques, in particular their ammonia emissions (a potent air-polluting gas) in fertiliser and livestock, with training and support made available for them. Agriculture is responsible for 88 per cent of UK emissions of ammonia gas.
It is believed that future policy will "involve financial rewards and incentives for farmers reducing their contribution to air pollution". the Big Issue reports. Further details have been promised for early 2019.
The government plans focus on tackling particulates, defined as "everything in the air that isn't a gas, a suspension of particles which are solid, liquid or somewhere in between".
This means tougher rules for those with wood burners and open stoves. By 2022, only the cleanest forms of biomass stoves will be available to purchase. According to their strategy, burning solid fuel such as wood or coal in open fires and stoves makes up 38 per cent of the UK's emissions of particulate matter. Burning coal also emits the toxic sulphur dioxide.
The Clean Air Strategy offers no new action on vehicle pollution, other than repeating its vow to stop petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. Although, as Greenpeace UK's Morten Thaysen argues, this date could be too far away: “The government is saying all the right things about the huge cost in human lives and money, but is proposing nothing new to tackle pollution from road transport.
"A 2040 phase-out date for diesel and petrol is effectively saying that yes, your grandchildren deserve clean air, but your children will have to go on breathing toxic fumes so as not to disrupt the car industry’s sales forecasts.”
The government has committed to working with the General Medical Council and Medical Royal Colleges to increase their understanding of the problems arising from air pollution. They also want to collaborate with the media to make air quality updates more visible to people.
Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to public health in the UK, behind only cancer, obesity and heart disease. The Clean Air Strategy could cut the cost of air pollution to the UK by £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030. They have pledged to halving the number of people living in areas with pollution above WHO guidelines by 2025.