This week’s short debate was led by Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) on the subject of air pollution.
A national scandal
As a GP of 35 years experience, heart and lung problems were amongst some of the most common illnesses he comes across, with rates of asthma increasing amongst children for decades.
There was no single explanation, but particulates put into the air by petrol and diesel engines, as well as from tyres, are likely to be partly behind it.
“Recent figures show that every year, more than 2,000 lives are cut short in Wales as a result of poor air quality. It is nothing short of a national scandal. Now, as Chair of the cross-party group on a clean air Act for Wales, the purpose of today’s short debate is to make the case for a new clean air Act and the need to create a robust legal framework that sets out ambitious approaches to improving air quality in Wales.”
– Dr Dai Lloyd AM
Last week, a UNICEF report found that 70% of the UK’s towns and cities had particulate levels that exceed World Health Organisation guidelines and across 86% of the UK, nitrogen dioxide levels were at illegal levels.
He told the chamber that Mark Drakeford committed to introducing a Clean Air Act in his Labour leadership manifesto and Cardiff Council leader, Huw Thomas, has come out in support as well.
A Clean Air Act could enshrine World Health Organisation guidelines in law, place obligations on local authorities to properly monitor air pollution and places a legal duty to notify vulnerable people (such as those with heart and lung conditions) when air quality guidelines are breached in their area.
Additional measures could include phasing out the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2030, improving public transport and setting default 20mph speed limits in urban areas.
“A great deal of consensus”
Replying to the debate, Deputy Minister for Local Government & Housing, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn) said there was now “a great deal of consensus” across the chamber on the need for action.
A new national air quality plan is being developed and is due to be published in April. It’ll include measures to monitor and address air pollution issues on the road network in particular. A clean air zones framework is also due to be published this spring.
The Deputy Minister also confirmed that a Clean Air Act “was on the table”:
“The Member almost precipitates my lines by referring to the First Minister’s manifesto. Indeed, there was a manifesto commitment to improve air quality through the development of a clean air Act for Wales. This is something that I welcome, and working on the clean air programme that we’re doing already may identify gaps and opportunities where new legislation will be required to reduce air pollution.”
– Deputy Minister for Local Government & Housing, Hannah Blythyn