The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has written to Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb ahead of the second reading of her Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill to provide a summary of RCP research on air quality.
Every parliamentary session, MPs and Peers in the House of Lords have an opportunity to bring forward a Private Members Bill (PMB). They are chosen through a ballot. These allow backbench MPs and Peers to bring forward ideas that are not part of the government’s legislative agenda.
The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill has been brought forward as a PMB by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a Green party Peer. It would establish a human right to clean air and would require the government to limit the concentration of pollutants in the air in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and scientific evidence.
Air quality is an area of significant interest for the RCP. The letter to Baroness Jones, signed by the president of the RCP and the RCP’s special adviser on quality, sets out the key findings and recommendations from the RCP’s joint report with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2016 Every Breath We Take:
- Around 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
- The health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution have a high cost to our health services and to business. In the UK these costs add up to more than £20bn every year.
- People in lower socio-economic backgrounds tend to live in environments where they are more exposed to air pollution and therefore suffer more from the effects of exposure to high levels of air pollution.
It also touches on the government consultation on environmental targets under the Environment Act 2021 to set ambitious targets to reduce PM2.5. The RCP is calling for PM2.5 to be reduced to 10μg m3 by 2030, with the ultimate objective of reducing annual mean concentration to 5μg m3 in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guideline values published last year.
The RCP submitted a response to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ consultation on environmental targets and wrote to Minister Jo Churchill urging the Department to adopt 10μg m3 by 2030 as the target for PM2.5 reduction.
Private Members' Bills rarely become law but can create publicity around an issue and therefore indirectly affect government legislation.