On Saturday 4th December, we took action in Dorking and Reigate to highlight the issue of air pollution locally, nationally and globally. We focused on 2 areas of high pollution, at the Dorking Cock roundabout and Reigate High Street, Red Cross junction.
Reason 1 – Health
Air pollution is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK and contributes to shortening and reducing the quality of life for thousands. 40,000 UK deaths a year are estimated to arise from air pollution (Royal College of Physicians).
Globally, one in five people die from air pollution, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, like coal and diesel (Harvard School of Public Health).
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is widely understood to be the pollutant that is the most damaging to health, yet the Government’s Environment Bill 2021 does not set a limit or target for particle pollution – despite amendments proposed by the House of Lords for an air quality target for PM2.5 of less than or equal to 10µg/m3 by 2030 (UK Parliament). This target was compatible with the former World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, which have since been lowered to 5µg/m3, although it recognises that ‘no threshold has been identified below which no damage to health is observed’ (WHO).
Reason 2 – Climate Emergency
Air quality and climate change are intimately connected, with many common causes.
The burning of fossil fuels causes air pollution and is driving climate change. Yet our Government continues to support their production by subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and by funding projects abroad – the UK has given $13.6 billion of tax payers money in tax breaks and payments to the oil and gas industry since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 (Paid to Pollute)
Despite announcing that the UK Government would stop supporting fossil fuel projects overseas in December 2020 (UK Government), it still plans to support a controversial gas project in Mozambique. Friends of the Earth will be challenging this decision in court in the coming days (Friends of the Earth)
The climate pact agreed at COP26 refers to the ‘phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’. The Climate Change Committee that advises the UK Government makes clear that ‘No fossil fuel subsidies should be classed as ‘efficient’’ (CCC).
Fossil fuels are killing us.
We must demand that our Government stops supporting them, to both improve our health and hasten a just transition towards a zero carbon society.
Action you can take:
- If you are interested in tackling air pollution locally this online event by the Community Planning Alliance on 7th December (more dates to follow) aimed at actively engaging communities in the air quality debate, may be of interest.
- Read about how XR Dorking monitored air pollution locally during lockdown here.
- Support Paid to Pollute – taking the Government to court to stop payments for big polluters.
- Take part in local actions with XR Dorking and XR Reigate and Redhill – get in touch
- Write to your MP to ask them to call for the ending of fossil fuel subsidies.
- Reduce the amount of car journeys you make – where possible walk or cycle for shorter journeys, lift share, or take public transport. Plan ahead and combine trips.