On 18 March, Luke chaired Labour’s Clean Air Summit. Luke was joined by a variety of clean air campaigners and politicians including Keir Starmer, Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, and Doreen Lawrence.
During the Summit, Luke and his guests called for the introduction of a new Clean Air Act. This would establish a legal right to breathe clean air. Three in five Britons now live in areas where the air quality is illegally poor, with the health of young people and pensioners particularly impacted. Luke recently proposed amendments to the Environment Bill, calling for the government to incorporate the World Health Organisation’s air quality limits into law. This was voted against by the Tories.
The Environment Bill has been repeatedly delayed and postponed, leaving it in parliamentary limbo. Labour is calling for a Clean Air Act to establish a legal right to breathe clean air by ensuring the law on air quality is at least as strict as WHO guidelines. This includes tough new duties on Ministers to enforce them and the granting of new powers to local authorities to take urgent action on air quality. Even before the pandemic, air pollution represented a national health emergency resulting in an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year, costing the UK £20 billion annually. It is those people living in the most deprived areas with the most toxic air who suffer disproportionately greater ill health.
Speaking of the Clean Air Act, Luke said:
“Inaction from the Conservatives on this issue has allowed catastrophic levels of air pollution to build up across the country. Only recently we saw that toxic air causes around 40,000 premature deaths a year.
“I will be continuing to make the case for urgent action to clean up our air which will also help decarbonise our economy too. It’s not good enough that the government keeps kicking the can down the road and ignoring the problem – we need a Clean Air Act to ensure we all have safe air to breathe.”