Lib Dems lead the way on Air Quality


The following policy motion on air quality was passed overwhelmingly (more than 96% voting in favour) at the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference (11th-13th March 2022).  Because the Liberal Democrats are a Federal Party, most of the motion applies only to England, as the Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats pass their own policy at their State Conferences.

You can watch the debate on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoKWRzD3I8k
The debate starts at 25:00 into the video; the vote is at 1:09:00.

Harrow Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly support this policy and have already included aspects of it in their manifesto for this May’s elections.

F9 Action to Improve Air Quality
Ealing Borough

Mover: Cllr Hina Bokhari AM.
Summation: Cllr Jon Ball.

Conference notes that:
I. Air pollution is the cause of many thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. In 2019 fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was responsible for more than 33,000 deaths annually in the UK, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for 5,750.

II. Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health. The World Health Organisation states that by reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases including asthma. In addition, maternal exposure to polluted air can result in premature and low birth-weight babies. Children living in highlighted polluted areas are more likely to have reduced lung growth.

III. The United Kingdom’s national limits for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are set at four times the level of the World Health Organisation guidelines, and the principal source of these are transportation, with wood-burning stoves also being a major and growing contributor with some studies suggesting they contribute 15% of particulate pollution.

IV. The UK was frequently found to be in breach of EU air pollution rules when they applied to the UK before Brexit.

V. For the first time in December 2020 air pollution exposure was listed as a cause of death, in the tragic death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, and that in a report to prevent future deaths published in April 2021 the coroner recommended a reduction in national limits for particulate matter.

VI. Groups such as the Clean Air Parents’ Network intend to take legal action against the Government to compel them to take action to improve air quality.

Conference believes that:

A. Everyone has the basic right to breathe clean air and urgent action to achieve this is vital to protect the health of all but particularly our children.
B. Taking action on air quality will take pressure off the NHS.

Conference reaffirms existing Liberal Democrat policy to:
i) Legislate to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and small vans, including hybrids, by 2030, and accelerate the installation of charging points.
ii) Oppose any net increase in airport runways across the UK.

Conference supports:
A. the introduction of Clean Air Zones in large towns and cities across the UK, including the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London and the Clean Air Zone in Liberal Democrat- controlled Portsmouth.
B. Local initiatives such as the ‘Cough, Cough, Engine Off’ public education programme in Liberal Democrat-controlled Portsmouth.

Conference calls on local authorities to:
a) Install more pollution sensors near major roads and at every urban school.
b) Publicise local air quality issues including publishing live pollution levels from their pollution sensors stating specific levels of pollutants using globally recognised units of measurement.
c) Work to improve air quality in their area.
d) Take into account likely differential air pollution changes in different roads when designing traffic schemes.
e) Consider implanting or extending Clean Air Zones, in consultation with residents and local businesses to ensure that such zones reduce net pollution and don’t merely displace activity.
f) Promote schemes to allow the rapid and affordable replacement of petrol and diesel vehicles by lower polluting vehicles by local businesses in conjunction with the introduction of Clean Air zones.
g) Establish No-Idling Zones outside schools.

Conference calls on the Government to:

  1. Urgently bring forward statutory instruments under the Environment Act 2021 to introduce legally binding national limits for particulate matter and other pollutants at or below current WHO guidelines.
  2. Introduce a fully-funded obligation for all local authorities to install and maintain pollution sensors in their areas.
  3. Introduce a scrappage scheme targeted at the most polluting older vehicles, in particular old diesel vehicles, and at vehicles used by local businesses in proposed Clean Air Zones.
  4. Introduce targeted funding to provide financial support for the operators of buses, taxis and private hire vehicles to switch to less polluting technologies.
  5. Increase the Air Quality Grant Programme which provides funding to local authorities to tackle locally identified air pollution issues.
  6. Encourage local authorities to run public education style programmes and allow them to follow these with an increased maximum penalty that they can apply to drivers leaving their engines idling, with the local authorities retaining 100% of the money raised.
  7. Fund local authorities to introduce more electric charging points in Clean Air Zones, allowing supply to keep ahead of demand.

Applicability: England only; except “i) Legislate to end the sale….” and “3. Introduce a
scrappage scheme,...” which are Federal.

Background briefing

This motion updates environmental and transport policy with regards to air pollution.
It builds on existing policy as set out in the policy motion Cleaning Up the Air We Breathe – How to Tackle Road Pollution (March 2019) and the General Election Manifesto Stop Brexit and Build a Brighter Future  (2019).


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