Science & Environment

Government 'failed to clean up air'

Cyclist Image copyright Getty Images

New figures show the UK government failed to reduce illegal levels of air pollution in the 18 months after a court ordered it to clean up the air.

At the end of 2016, the UK still had the same number of zones with illegal air pollution as in 2015.

That's despite being under a Supreme Court order at the time to bring down nitrogen dioxide emissions - mainly from transport - as soon as possible.

The government said it had put in place a £3bn plan to improve air quality.

Ministers have been forced to increase their ambition on pollution by a succession of court defeats to an environmental campaign group, ClientEarth.

Its chief executive James Thornton said: "These statistics show how ministers are failing to protect people from air pollution, which is blighting the lives of thousands of people across the country.

"We're deeply saddened to see how little progress was made last year and we will keep up the pressure to tackle this public health crisis, so that all of us - particularly young children - are protected from harmful pollution."

In July, the government produced its second air pollution plan ordered by the court.

But in the plan, most of the responsibility was passed to local councils. And they say they're not being adequately funded to make improvements in air quality like improving public transport or re-engineering the streets.

A government spokesman said: "We will end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution.

"We now have an opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit and improve environmental standards as we leave the EU."

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