Lesley Griffiths has signalled Wales’s determination to go further to improve air quality, setting out a series of new measures in a Clean Air Plan for Wales.
Air pollution remains the largest environmental risk to the public’s health. Public Health Wales estimates it contributed to between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths in 2017. Long term exposure to pollution in the atmosphere shortens lifespans and damages the quality of life of many. It also affects the quality of our habitats, levels of biodiversity and the economy.
The Clean Air Plan for Wales, Healthy Air, Healthy Wales out for consultation today, brings together work across government and the public sector. It consolidates progress already made and proposes a range of new actions and commitments. These include funding new infrastructure, tightening existing regulations and acting as a stepping stone to a new Clean Air Act for Wales.
The Plan sets out a wide-ranging programme of work within 4 clear themes:
- protecting health and wellbeing of current and future generations
- supporting environment, ecosystems and biodiversity
- supporting a prosperous Wales
- supporting sustainable places.
It includes ambitions to meet and, where possible, exceed requirements set out in UK and international guidance and legislation. It also commits the Welsh Government to publish a White Paper this Assembly term on a Clean Air Act for Wales.
The 12 week consultation seeks views on existing commitments and proposed new actions in the plan including:
- increasing air quality monitoring outside areas such as schools and hospitals to protect those most vulnerable from transport emissions
- investing an additional £60 million over 3 years to implement the Active Travel Act, meaning local authorities must consult with communities and develop a safe network for walking and cycling
- reviewing powers local authorities have to tackle emissions from the indoor burning of solid fuels such as wood and coal
- assessing the contribution bonfires and fireworks make to levels of harmful emissions
- investigating measures aimed at reducing personal vehicle use such as road pricing, Clean Air Zones and/or Low Emission Zones
- increasing the proportion of vehicles which are electric and ultra-low (ULEV) emission
- strategic tree and hedge planting and expanding woodland which support air quality improvements
- plans to improve air quality communications and education.
The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs said:
Everyone in Wales should be able to breathe healthy air, access healthy and protected natural resources and enjoy sustainable and clean economic growth. The Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales provides a national framework within which all areas of society can work together towards these objectives.
We have made good progress but we must continue to improve. We must improve air quality, not just in the most polluted hotspots, but across all of Wales. This plan will consolidate the work we have already carried out and build upon it.
Together, we have an opportunity to work towards improving air quality for our children and for future generations. I urge people to have their say on our plans by responding to the consultation.
Joseph Carter, Chair of Healthy Air Cymru and Head of BLF Wales said:
The Clean Air Plan provides an opportunity for Welsh Government and Local Authorities to work closer together to achieve the cleanest air possible.
We're proud of the contributions we have been able to make to the development of the plan and look forward to continuing our work with Welsh Government to promote the positive impacts it can have for our health and the well-being of future generations.