Whilst the significant reduction in air pollution over the last decade is encouraging, I believe it is important that we continue to improve air quality, while supporting owners of polluting vehicles to make the transition.
The Government’s Clean Air Strategy, published in 2019, sets a goal of halving the number of people living in locations with concentrations of particulate matter above WHO guidelines, and I am pleased that the WHO has described our approach as an example for the world to follow. The Environment Bill builds on this, introducing a duty on the Government to set at least two air quality targets by October 2022: one to reduce the annual average level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in ambient air, and one to improve air quality.
This action is backed up by a £3.8 billion plan to improve air quality and create cleaner transport, including almost £1.5 billion to support the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles. The recent Budget also included a £304 million investment in capital over next two years to combat roadside pollution, enabling local authorities to take steps to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Over the past year many people have appreciated the value of air quality during lockdown and, as part of our efforts to further improve it, many regions will soon form Clean Air Zones (CAZ). However the start date for implementing a Clean Air Plan in Greater Manchester is still uncertain. The Government has made £41 million available to help businesses and individuals in our region switch to cleaner vehicles and avoid CAZ charges. I would encourage all owners of vehicles which would face charges under the CAZ to investigate whether they can receive support from central, regional, or local government to make this transition.