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UK could meet WHO air pollution targets by 2030 with planned policies – report

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orld Health Organisation targets for air pollution could be met across the UK by 2030 if environmental policies are delivered on, a report has said.

The study, commissioned by the Clean Air Fund and carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, found levels of pollution known as PM2.5 could fall to within recommended interim limits for most of the country by the end of the decade.

It would be a “win, win, win”, campaigners said, delivering benefits for health ranging from cutting infant deaths to reducing coronary heart disease, as well as for the economy, and reducing climate emissions.

It only requires existing or planned environmental, transport and clean air policies to be delivered, such as regulations on industrial emissions, vehicle standards and burning wood and coal.

And recommendations by the Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on switching to cleaner transport such as electric cars also need to be implemented, the report said.

Children across the UK would suffer an average of 388,000 fewer days of asthma symptoms a year, there would be 3,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease and it would add nine to 10 weeks onto average life expectancy for those born in 2018, according to the research.

“This new research shows us that achieving much healthier air is possible across the vast majority of the UK by 2030 based on policies the Government already plans to implement or that have been recommended by the Committee on Climate Change

The report estimates the move could deliver £380 billion in economic benefits over the next century to 2134, due to improved health, fewer early deaths and greater productivity, more than justifying the £3.3 billion annual costs to implement.

The report also found that even London could dramatically reduce the city’s exposure to PM2.5 if the mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to tackle air pollution were implemented.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline limit for PM2.5 was reduced in 2021 from an annual average of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, known as WHO-10, to 5 micrograms per cubic metre, with WHO-10 now an “interim target” for countries struggling with high air pollution.

The UK’s current target is 20 micrograms per cubic metre for the fine particulate matter, but a new target will be set later this year.

Campaigners are urging the Government to adopt the WHO-10 limit as a legal target to be met by 2030 at the latest, as well as committing to implementing policies that will ensure the UK meets the goal and provide city authorities such as London with funding and powers to tackle local air pollution.

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