Green Party calls for legislation to reduce air pollution in the UK

The Green Party has pledged to bring in legislation to improve air quality standards and reduce pollution in the UK.

Under a “Clean Air Act”, the party is proposing to encourage active travel and end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2027, and their use entirely by 2035.

Air pollution is linked to 43,000 deaths per year in the UK, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said, as she argued that everyone should have “the legal right to breathe clean air”.

Former Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has previously called for a Clean Air Bill, which would set a pathway towards achieving the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on air quality.

In 2023, Ms Lucas wrote an open letter stating that children’s health in the UK is suffering because they go to school in areas where the level of air pollution is higher than the WHO’s guidelines.

The Bill was unofficially named Ella’s Law after Ella Kissi-Debrah, who was the first person to have air pollution formally listed on their death certificate after she succumbed to a severe asthma attack in 2013 aged nine.

Ms Denyer said: “It’s high time we cleaned up our act. That’s why Green MPs will take our manifesto commitment to a Clean Air Act and push the next Labour government to give everyone the legal right to breathe clean air.”

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer
Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She added: “Air pollution is linked to 43,000 deaths per year in the UK. The World Health Organisation recognises it’s the largest environmental threat to our health.

“On Clean Air Day we owe it to the many communities blighted by toxic air to fix this problem.

“Greens offer these communities real hope and real change and Green MPs will work hard for a Clean Air Act in the next parliament.”

In addition to the Clean Air Act, the Green Party is also proposing to invest £2.5 billion a year in new cycleways and footpaths.

Ms Denyer said: “Creating safe routes for walking, wheeling and cycling will encourage many more people to use active travel, especially children, so that these become healthy lifetime habits.

“Frequent, reliable, affordable and electrified buses also have a huge role to play in offering a viable alternative to the car.

“Not only will this clean up our air, it will be good for the economy. Every £1 invested in bus services is estimated to bring an economic return of £4.50. Greens also want to see free bus travel for under-18s.”

Chief executive of the charity Asthma and Lung UK, Sarah Sleet, said: “Air pollution might be an invisible threat, but it is putting young children at huge risk of stunted lung growth and increases their risk of developing long-term respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

“No government would allow people to drink dirty water, so why should the air we breathe be any different? We need politicians to tackle this health emergency with decisive and united action so we can safeguard the lung health of future generations.”