• Does the UK Public Support Tougher Air Pollution Laws?

Air Clean Up

Does the UK Public Support Tougher Air Pollution Laws?

Dec 22 2020

An illuminating new poll from YouGov has revealed that more than half of the British population (54%) support tougher air pollution laws. Asked whether they would be in favour of the UK enshrining World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on air quality into British law, a majority of respondents replied in the affirmative.

The survey, which involved more than 2,000 people from across the country, also found that the UK public were in support of other concrete measures to clean up the country’s airways. However, it also discovered that the coronavirus pandemic has precipitated an upturn in the number of people using their cars to commute to work, given that public transport is viewed as more of a health risk in terms of catching the disease.

Supporting stronger legislation

As well as bringing UK law into line with the guidance offered by the WHO, the survey also revealed that Britons are keen for more concrete measures aimed at cleaning up the country’s emissions to be introduced. This was especially noticeable in relation to the air surrounding schools, with 64% of those surveyed saying they would support the introduction of car-free zones near education centres, even if it inconvenienced the parents of children attending the schools.

A further 57% voiced their support for promoting less damaging forms of transportation such as walking and cycling, calling for the government to introduce incentives such as cycle lanes. Meanwhile, over half (53%) said that clean air zones (CAZs) which charge more polluting vehicles to enter their environs were a step in the right direction towards tackling air pollution.

The impacts of COVID-19

Despite these encouraging indicators, the YouGov research also found that many people had not been practising what they preach over the last 12 months. One of the more obvious environmental implications of coronavirus has been its impact on emissions, although the survey showed that more people actually commute to work by car now than they did before the pandemic.

That is primarily because of fears surrounding the safety of using public transport, with support for such sustainable means of getting around having fallen in the last nine months. On the other hand, the good news is that walking and cycling were also on the increase as forms of commuting to and from the workplace.

Greater measures needed

The widespread existence of urban air quality monitors has contributed to an increased awareness of the pollution present in the air that people are breathing – and they have become more and more vocal in their demands for something to be done about it. Those calls are echoed by some senior leaders in political and environmental movements, including the British Lung Foundation’s Harriet Edwards.

“Air pollution is bad for everybody’s health, but for the 1 in 5 people in the UK with existing lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD, exposure to toxic air can cause an immediate flare-up of existing symptoms with potentially devastating consequences,” explained Edwards. “That’s why we need to see urgent action from the government, including bolder air quality laws to reduce air pollution levels, and nationwide public health campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers.”


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