Smart Transport

Government to set legally binding air quality targets

The Government is planning to set new air quality targets under its Environment Bill to help reduce public exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

The UK currently falls short of WHO recommended limits of PM 2.5s, which are produced by vehicle engines and known to damage the lungs and heart.

The Government said it is fully committed to tackling air pollution and that is independent of being a member of the EU.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) long-term targets will be supported by interim targets to ensure the UK stays on track with the Government’s five-year trajectory.

George Eustice, Environment Secretary, said: “The targets we set under our Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world - guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”

To set the targets, which will also apply to any future Governments, Defra said it will use “an evidence-led process in collaboration with independent experts and stakeholders to make sure these are strong, meaningful and environmental outcome focused”.

To hold the Government to account, the new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, will also report annually on the progress that has been made in improving the natural environment in accordance with these targets.

Once proposed targets are developed, businesses, communities and civil society will have an opportunity to share their views in response to a public consultation that is expected in early 2022.

Legislation to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the UK’s presidency of COP26 in November 2021 will also keep the UK at the forefront of international work on air quality.

Whilst investment into alternative fuel power will have a greater long-term impact, TRL is calling for an increased focus on immediate short-term actions such as wider uptake of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Low Emission Zones (LEZs).

Multiple CAZ plans have been either put on hold, or cancelled as councils consider alternative options in the wake of Covid-19.

Bristol City Council has said it may scrap its plans for a CAZ, Leeds has also halted its CAZ plans. Meanwhile, Manchester is pushing ahead with its plan to introduce a CAZ.

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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