My Clean Air Act is top of the Lords’ ballot for private members bills which means that it stands a good chance of getting through all three stages in the Lords, before moving into the Commons. The bill aims to protect the public against air pollution which is one of the biggest public health hazards of our time and responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in the UK. I’ve been working on this issue for over twenty years, but this is my best chance to get the government to take decisive action.
Over the next few months I will need support from peers across the Lords to make sure my new Clean Air Act reaches the Commons. However, I also need to persuade the government to make time available to debate this legislation in the Commons.
The government will argue that air pollution has improved a lot in the last two decades and despite their missing legal targets and constantly dragging their feet, there is some truth to that. However, the evidence of the negative impacts of air pollution on health has also grown, especially the threat posed by ultra-fine particles. Last year the government passed the Environment Bill without including the target set by the World Health Organisation for dealing with these microscopic bits of pollution that can lodge in the brain and other organs.
With her mother Rosamund’s permission, I am calling my Clean Air Bill “Ella’s Law” after Ella Kissi-Debrah, the child who became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of their death in a historic ruling by the coroner last year. Failure to reduce pollution levels to legal limits possibly contributed to her death, as did the failure to provide her mother with information about the potential for air pollution to exacerbate asthma, the Coroner found.
My ‘Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill’ would enshrine the right to clean air in UK law across all forms of air pollution: indoor and outdoor; health and the environment; and, for the first time, require joined up thinking on climate change and local air pollution. We really need to start thinking about a zero emission strategy that reduces harm to human health and the harm we are doing to this planet