Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, and Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England have sent the following letter to The Guardian and The Independent concerning today’s publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on air quality.
Re: UK government ‘puts thousands of lives at risk over air pollution failures’
The growing problem of air pollution and its health impacts is indeed a ‘national scandal’. The UK is failing to tackle this growing pollution which is cutting short the lives of tens of thousands of people each year and irrevocably damaging children’s lung capacity.
The Environmental Audit Committee is right to highlight that the government is spending more time and energy trying to woo the European Commission, asking them to grant us deadline extensions or dilute the fines, rather than tackling the problem. When the government has failed so spectacularly to take measures to address this situation it is morally reprehensible to suggest that tens of millions of pounds of EU fines will simply be passed to local authorities. At a time when local councils are seeing their funding slashed they can ill afford to take financial responsibility for a problem which is not solely of their making.
Air pollution is already costing the country more than £20bn a year in health costs. To reduce these costs and escape EU fines we need to be investing in cleaning up our air. National government must take urgent action to introduce low emission zones, invest in walking and cycling, and clean up old vehicles so that we combat this invisible public health crisis.
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England
Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London