Air pollution is a global health and social justice issue that disproportionately affects the most deprived, says a report by Global Action Plan and Insight Investment.
Local authorities can be among the prime movers in driving up air quality standards, say the report’s authors, by encouraging the use of sustainable travel options instead of cars; encouraging a move to ultra-low emission vehicles for essential journeys; supporting vulnerable groups most at risk from air pollution; working with developers and planners to minimise the activity that causes air pollution; and adopting clean air zones (CAZs) or equivalent, which restrict or add an extra cost to the most polluting actions in those neighbourhoods.
Further impact can be delivered through local authorities’ pension funds, which invest in a wide range of industries – many of which contribute to air pollution.
Air pollution contributes to 36,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. Across the world, that amounts to 4.2 million.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimated in 2020 that air pollution costs the UK economy three million working days – equivalent to £1.6 billion – every year because of sickness, absence, and lost productivity at work.
A poll has shown that 72% believe clean air to be a more important issue now, due to effects on people’s lungs from coronavirus.
Research conducted by Global Action Plan showed that people appreciated the quieter, safer streets that resulted from the first UK Covid-19 lockdown.