Cornwall steps up action at national clean air summit

Cornwall will add its voice to major cities and other local authorities today to tackle the growing national air quality crisis and improve public health.

Cornwall Council Leader Adam Paynter was invited to attend the National Clean Air Summit in London, joining the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matthew Hancock, UK100 and UNICEF UK at the event.

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The summit aims to build consensus on the actions and powers that are needed to tackle the national air pollution crisis, as attendees set out their priorities for government.

This includes highlighting what’s needed in the government’s new Environment Bill, making the case for a new national vehicle fleet renewal scheme and ensuring the funding local and regional authorities need is provided.

Councillor Paynter said “With air pollution at national health crisis levels in some parts of the UK, it is critical to join together with other regions to put pressure on Government to act swiftly and on a national scale.

“Air pollution affects Cornwall like the rest of the UK. While we have local action plans in place to manage air quality and we are investing in public transport and road improvements to reduce congestion and improve air quality, devolving more powers to local authorities to take local action is critical to making real step changes and delivering on our commitment to a healthy Cornwall,” he said.

“Pushing for national action to provide better incentives for drivers, especially those on low incomes, to choose less polluting vehicles when they change their car could really help reduce emissions and improve air quality – especially in Cornwall where vehicles are on average about ten years old.

“In Cornwall we have nine Air Quality Management Areas where traffic related air pollution is higher than the government’s recommended action level.  As a Council we’re tackling air pollution across Cornwall by providing new walking and cycling opportunities, working with partners to introduce cleaner buses, trialling new technology to reduce emissions from our own vehicle fleet, and much more, but more local powers backed by national legislation will make an even greater impact in helping to ensure a healthy Cornwall.”

Councillor Paynter said attending the summit was also part of Cornwall’s pledge to residents to do more to tackle climate change, following Council passing an emergency climate change motion last month. The motion included calling on Westminster to provide the powers and resources necessary to achieve the target for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030.

What can residents do to help? 

In the UK over 600 Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) have been declared in areas with poor air quality.  All of the AQMAs have higher levels of nitrogen dioxide gas than they should, and vehicles are the main source of nitrogen dioxide. 

Every time we make a choice about how to travel what we’re doing makes a difference to the amount of air pollution in Cornwall. 

For example, if you’re waiting in traffic queues and are stationary for a minute or more, switch off your engine.  In Cornwall around 40% of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution is caused by private diesel cars, and adjacent to a busy road around 80% of air pollution is caused by traffic.  If drivers switch off their engines when their cars are stopped for one minute or more, pollution can be reduced by 20-30%.

Walk, cycle, take the bus or train, use the park and ride, or look at options like car sharing or joining a car club. Even sharing tips and ideas for saving fuel, and therefore money, with friends and family, will have the benefit of improving air quality.

Posted 14 February 2019