The UK has experienced something of a chequered record when it comes to air quality. Despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, many of its countries and towns have consistently fallen short of minimum air quality thresholds as imposed by the EU. In fact, some streets in London exceeded their pollution limits for the entire year in just one month.
However, the British government have made it their mission to address the issue. In 2019, they published their ‘Clean Air Strategy’, which was heralded at the time by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “an example for the rest of the world to follow”. This year, the implementation of the Environment Bill aims to build upon those foundations to clamp down on poor air quality even further. But how exactly are regulations expected to change?
Monitoring plays a vital role in the air quality in towns and cities, and the data reveals that levels of particulate matter (PM) are far too high in urban centres across the country. For that reason, the government has introduced smoke control areas (SCAs), inside which the emission of smoke from a domestic chimney, inland waterway vessels and any other source is prohibited. While similar legislation was already in place, the Environment Bill tightens those restrictions and removes barriers to enforcement.
Another key cornerstone of the Bill is the stipulation that all land development projects must incur a minimum of a 10% uplift in biodiversity in the immediate vicinity of the site. Known as biodiversity net gain (BNG), this law will require land owners, developers and management authorities to incorporate BNG proposals into any development plans they come up with. This should have a cumulatively substantial impact on the wildlife across Britain.
The government has announced that it has already invested £2 billion of a total £3.8 billion into curbing the volume of emissions produced by transport. That has taken the shape of enhancing cycling and walking infrastructure to encourage more sustainable ways of getting around. Meanwhile, the embargo on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans has been accelerated 10 years to 2030, with all new vehicles required to have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035. This, it is hoped, will help set the UK on the road towards more environmentally-friendly road transportation, such as electric vehicles (EVs).
It’s not only road-bound mobile machinery which the government are targeting, either. They are bringing in laws which would oblige manufacturers to recall equipment and transportation which does not meet emissions standards. At the same time, they hope to reduce ammonia emissions from agriculture by incorporating manure more readily into bare soil, transitioning towards low-emission spreaders of digestate and preventing the release of ammonia from those stores by covering them.