New government must tackle air quality says environmental group manifesto

Improving air quality across the UK “is the most important” environmental issue the next government must tackle, says Environmental Industries Commission in its 2015 manifesto.

EIC’s 2015 Manifesto launched this week calls for the creation of a Committee on Air Quality, which would be accountable to Parliament. The manifesto outlines five challenges any future conservative, labour or coalition government must prioritise, with delivering real air quality chief among them.

The organisation’s director Matthew Farrow said the understandable need for a future government to secure economic growth will place further pressure on ecosystems.

“While we at EIC want a future government to deliver prosperity,” he said, “that future government needs to give quite a lot of thought to how to combine economic growth with a good environment.”

To manage the sustainable dilemma facing the UK will require innovative thinking and political imagination, according to the EIC Manifesto. It also lists delivering sustainable infrastructure, improving energy efficiency, and properly enforcing environmental policies as issues the next government should confront head on. It also points out the potential to increase exports of green products and services.

Air quality

As the result of an improved economy and increased economic activity, Farrow said pollution in the UK’s major cities is above European limits, to the point where it’s threatening people’s health.

“An estimated  29,000 people a year in Britain die prematurely because they’re breathing polluted air,” he said. “There’s no other environmental issue which has that sort of impact in people’s lives, so real action is needed.”

While the creation of a new Committee on Air Quality would address this growing problem, the manifesto has also proposed a package of policies. It suggests tighter restrictions on emissions from construction site machinery, more diesel engine buses to be retrofitted, as well as continued development of electric vehicles. 

Sustainable Infrastructure

In a concerted push to improve Britain’s global competitiveness and standard of living, a flurry of infrastructure projects are underway, from new high speed rail lines to new housing projects. “The next government has to make sure when it is building infrastructure, it is doing it in a way that enhances sustainability … rather than opposing it,” he said.

New houses should be energy efficient and built on brownfield sites if possible, while incorporating drainage systems that are sustainable.  Airport expansion must be compatible with UK climate change obligations.


The EIC Manifesto also suggests existing environmental policies be properly enforced, less energy be used in commercial buildings, and UKTI work closely with EIC to examine the UK’s export market opportunities. But crucially, the manifesto has made policy recommendations the next UK government should adopt in the coming years, some of which are listed below:

·       Establish a statutory Committee on Air Quality

·       National Framework of Low Emission Zones with proper enforcement

·       Revenue-neutral changes to vehicle tax to halt the current trend of displacement of petrol by diesel vehicles

·       Reduce motorway speed limit to 60mph in Air Quality Management Areas

·       Prompt implementation of energy efficiency policies such as Minimum Energy Performance Standards proposals and Allowable Solutions

“Ten years ago, low carbon and climate change became the dominant issue and a lot less thinking was being done about broader environmental issues,” said Farrow. “The next government needs to rebalance this with a wider range of environmental priorities while also showing that economic growth and sustainability can go hand in hand.  No easy task, but EIC and our members are ready and willing to work with whoever comes into power to make it happen.“

The Environmental Industries Commission is the leading trade body for environmental firms. www.eic-uk.co.uk