UK launches new clean air strategy – with clamp-down on ammonia emissions

The UK Government has today (Tuesday, May 22) published a new strategy to cut air pollution in the coming years – which will include measures to force a reduction on ammonia emissions from farms.

Primary legislation will be introduced to create a new legal air quality framework and give local government new powers to take decisive action, according to the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Proposals will cut the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030, the authority says.

According to the department, air pollution is the fourth biggest threat to public health after cancer, obesity and heart disease.

The new Government strategy sets out how it will “go further and faster than the EU in reducing human exposure to particulate matter pollution”, the department claims.

The new strategy, which is now out for consultation, is a key part of the UK’s 25-year plan to improve the environment.

A number of goals have been set out in the new strategy.

For the first time, the UK Government intends to clamp down on ammonia from farming – which is responsible for 88% of ammonia emissions – by requiring farmers to invest in the infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions.

“Farmers will be supported to achieve this through our new system of public money for public goods,” the department’s statement reads.

The UK intends to halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the WHO guideline limit of 10 ug/m3 by 2025. New primary legislation will also be introduced, which will give local government new powers to improve air quality.

“Only the cleanest domestic fuels will be available for sale, preventing 8,000t of harmful particulate matter from entering the atmosphere each year,” the department says.

In addition, new standards for tyres and brakes are to be developed to address toxic non-exhaust emissions of micro plastics from vehicles which can pollute air and water.

A personal air quality messaging system is to be provided by Government to inform the public – particularly those who are vulnerable to air pollution – about the air quality forecast, providing clearer information on air pollution episodes and accessible health advice.

New investment will also be pumped into scientific research and innovation, the department has confirmed.

During a visit to meet air quality researchers at Imperial College, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

“Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but, 60 years on from the historic Clean Air Act, a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.

“This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of Government to improve air quality.”

Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution. Our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers, industry and households to develop innovative new solutions to reduce emissions.

“It also highlights how we can all take action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air.”