Clean Air Plan first step towards a Clean Air Act for Wales (though not any time soon)

(Title Image: ITV Wales)

The public has 12 weeks to have their say on the Welsh Government’s Clean Air Plan (pdf). The plan sets out how the government intends to address poor air quality, said to be responsible for anything up to 2,000 excess deaths every year.

The key measures include:

  • Increased air quality monitoring outside schools and hospitals.
  • Investing an additional £60million over three years on walking and cycling schemes.
  • Review council powers over solid fuel (wood and coal) burning and assess how bonfires and fireworks contribute to air pollution.
  • Increasing the use of electric and low-emission vehicles.
  • Strategic woodland creation.

The government also intends to publish a white paper on a Clean Air Act before the end of the current term in 2021.

Introducing the plan in the Senedd, the Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), emphasised the need for everyone to work together.

This plan has been a long time coming and the wait for concrete action on air quality was picked up by many AMs.

Shadow Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), regretted that a Clean Air Act was unlikely to be passed before the next election. There were also some policies which contradict the plan’s aims – namely support for waste-to-energy incinerators.

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) noted the large increase in cases of asthma, COPD and idiopathic (“unknown cause”) pulmonary fibrosis – which he was certain would be firmly linked to modern levels of air pollution one day. There had to be a law to “introduce a right to breathe”.

Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West) was pleased that indoor pollution was finally being recognised as burning fuels indoors was often overlooked.

Several AMs stressed the need for traffic in and around schools to be urgently addressed, whether through increased investment in walking and cycling schemes – as mentioned in the plan – or even going so far as introducing exclusion zones to prevent parents parking near to schools (the practicalities of which weren’t discussed in any great detail).

The public consultation closes on 10th March 2020 and all the details are available here.

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