A Clean Air Act for the 21st Century

Just sixty years ago, towns and cities across the UK would be regularly smothered by smoke from coal fires burning in homes and factories. The Great Smog of 1952 infamously brought London to a halt and caused thousands of deaths in the weeks and years that followed.

Four years after the Great Smog, our nation came together to solve one of the greatest public health crises of the time. Members of all political parties put their differences aside and worked with one another to create the Clean Air Act, a ground-breaking piece of legislation that phased out coal from towns and cities and helped to protect the health of millions of people for decades after. But, sixty years after the first Clean Air Act, air pollution is still damaging people’s health across the UK – we just can’t see it.

Annually, air pollution across the UK causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths and affects the daily life of thousands of people who have no choice but to breathe dirty air. Illegal and harmful levels of air pollution are found not only in London but in cities like Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow and towns like Truro, Llandeilo and Lanark. Air pollution affects us all, from the womb to old age. It triggers strokes, heart and asthma attacks, increasing the risk of hospitalisation and death, and causes cancer. It is linked to premature births and stunted lung growth in children.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We have the technology and the tools to clean our air. All we need is leaders brave enough to act.

Instead of making the same arguments against taking action that were made 60 years ago we need the government to wake up to our air pollution crisis. Just as we did back then, we now need a new Clean Air Act that is ambitious, fair and far-reaching enough to clean up our air across all of the United Kingdom. We need a Clean Air Act that will:

  1. Tackle the sources of modern air pollution, such as diesel, and accelerate the shift to zero emissions transport;
  2. Improve and strengthen existing legislation, enshrining the right to breathe clean air into law, so the UK has the most ambitious air quality legislation in Europe;
  3. Make the UK a world leader in clean technology, creating the jobs and industries that will help us, and others, clean up our air.

Join our campaign for a new Clean Air Act and together we can make sure everyone has the right to breathe clean air.


Our goal is to translate the growing public demand for political action on clean air to Members of Parliament and to the UK government. We want to draw attention to the work of local leaders who are improving air quality and the businesses that are supporting them. By working across civil society, the public sector and business we will campaign for legislation that enshrines the right to breathe clean air into law and makes the UK a world leader in clean technologies and solutions. We can do this but we have to work together.


Across the country, people are speaking up for the right to breathe clean air. Over the next few months there are going to be many opportunities to add your voice so please sign up to be kept up to date of national and local activities happening.

If your organisation would like to get involved then contacts us at cleanairact@clientearth.org for more information.

You can read more about what we think the new Clean Air Act has to address here.


We’re a group of health, environmental and transport organisations calling on the UK government to take meaningful action on air pollution. We see the campaign for a new Clean Air Act as a way to connect and strengthen the existing work of organisations tackling air pollution, while simultaneously articulating a positive national vision around which to mobilise the general public. The intent of the new Clean Air Act is to provide city and national leaders with the tools and the public mandate to take immediate and long-term action on air pollution. This is a collective problem and it will take coordination at all levels of government to solve it. Our current partners include:


26 Responses to A Clean Air Act for the 21st Century

  1. […] To find out more about the campaign you can visit the website here. […]

    • Angie says:

      Yes I agree we need to clean up our act!!
      In cities and towns all over the world there is a huge problem which needs to be tackled ASAP.

      • martin says:

        Absolute necessity for the well-being of everyone. Electric transport on a commercial scale would help enormously. Why cannot we have car -free Cities and re-introduce Trams nationwide for a more pleasant ,clean and friendlier environment.Introduce bicycle / motorcycle /tram lanes and make driving motor cars unpleasant and expensive.

    • charles page says:

      I suffer from asthma and copd although not as bad as some people, but the first time I had symptoms it was very frightening and I spent 6 weeks at home I had to take a chair to get from the bed to the toilet when needed. I must admit that at the time I did smoke, but not heavily( I have not smoked for 15 years ). It is very scary and when it first happens you panic which of course makes it even worse. My Wife is disabled so I have to be able to look after her. I have a very good asthma nurse and with her help I am doing quite well. Finally I can only say I hope we get more clean air and tell people to stop smoking

  2. Tracy says:

    I have copd an im joining your campain

  3. […] is part of a new coalition that has launched today to campaign for a new Clean Air Act to help deal with the country’s toxic and illegal levels of air […]

  4. Christine Walters says:

    If you keep on building on Greenbelt our air will be even worse. Our health and well being counts as does our children’s health. Cancer is at an all time high, air pollution is a major factor. Please stop concreting over everything we need our Green Lung to help us breathe.

  5. Hilda Dent says:

    Please don’t forget the dangers of incinerators, their emissions, their bottom and fly ash.. nor should we forget the dust particles released from other Industrial chimneys And from mining.

  6. Gerald Rigby says:

    Client Earth is missing what is right under their noses (probably up their noses). We got rid of coal fires years ago, and the filthy, damaging air pollution they caused. Now we have log burners (that will burn almost anything and frequently do) which produce the same stinking pollution and emit dangerous carcinogenic particles that get deep into the lungs, triggering asthma and eventually cancer. What are Client Earth saying about it? Absolutely nothing! And this air pollution could be removed at a stroke, far quicker than it will be to ban diesels. Let’s go for some immediate results.

    • Andrea Lee says:

      Sadly, as a coalition of charities, the Healthy Air Campaign has limited resources so we have chosen to focus on road transport as the most significant source of air pollution in towns and cities across the UK. In the long term, our work developing a new Clean Air Act will be looking at the best approach to tackle all sources of air pollution and it is certainly true that current legislation is not able to tackle sources like modern wood burners.

  7. Sandra Burling says:

    I have copd and need cleaner air

  8. […] is an affiliate in the Clean Air Alliance and a partner in the ‘healthy air’ campaign in the UK, which launched last week. This week a joint press release will be issued […]

  9. Maggie says:

    Hi , Ihave suffered for three years and within the last year my breathlessness has got worse. I am now attending Brompton Hospital, London. I have been told that it is the environment that is causing my lung disease. The dust, air pollution etc. I have.fibrosis, scarred lungs, tighteness of the chest, and numerous chest infections. My heart races so much when I walk. I am going for a heart disease test soon. I hope everyone is ok.

    • Andrea Lee says:

      Sorry to hear Maggie but thank you for your support. We are often asked for case studies by journalists so do get in touch if this is something that you might be able to help with.

  10. Susan says:

    I have Copd & asthma & can no longer visit my family in London or go to museums or exhibitions when the air is poor, which seems to be most of the time now. When my mother was rushed into West Middlesex hospital, I had two serious asthma attacks while visiting her there in December. The air was foul on that road & I needed my granddaughter to support me just to make it a 100yds. It seems ironic that hospitals are situated in particularly polluted areas. I’m with you on this campaign & although at times a prisoner of my home, it is a major concern for the children & relatives of my family & of people everywhere trying to survive in this toxic environment.

    • Andrea Lee says:

      Thanks for your support, Susan. Really sorry to hear about how it affects your health. We are often asked for case studies by journalists so do get in touch if this is something that you might be able to help with.

  11. phillip cox says:

    when we pollute our own air what else is there to breath

  12. […] Our government is being dragged towards action on air pollution: ClientEarth won court rulings to make them produce realistic plans for meeting EU air pollution limits and now the EU has issued a final warning. Sadiq Kahn’s tougher action in London  includes an extra £10 charge for pre-2005 diesel cars from October.  In Cambridge a ‘Clean air zone’ and emission charging are on the cards, while an NGO coalition is calling for a Clean Air Act for the 21st Century. […]

  13. Lisa says:

    I am 45 years old and have suffered with asthma for the past 10 years. It is always frightening when you know you are going on a downward spiral into an attack. I have an 11 year old son whom is an absolute darling and is such a big help to me, it breaks my heart for him to see me when I am struggling to breathe. I love him so much and hope to be around in later years to see him and his family. I am increasingly worried about the air pollution around us. I live in a small village, it’s quite rural and one would expect the air quality to be reasonable, unfortunately a number of my neighbours have had log burners installed in the past 12 months – there is no escape! I spent most of this weekend perched on the bed concentrating on getting air into my lungs, it’s mentally and physically draining – I would have much preferred to be on the side of the football pitch cheering my son’s football team on.
    Please, please, please let’s do something about the toxic air pollution right away!

    • Andrea Lee says:

      Hi Lisa. Sorry to hear. It is terrible how it affects many people on a day to day basis. Hopefully you’ve signed up to our mailing list and we’ll keep you updated on our work. Thanks for supporting.

  14. anthony benjahin says:

    i am trying to do something for the air situation myself. i have been effected by unclean air.i couldn’t think properly,effected my physical strength and balance and memory.

  15. […] Our government is being dragged towards action on air pollution: ClientEarth won court rulings to make them produce realistic plans for meeting EU air pollution limits and now the EU has issued a final warning. Sadiq Kahn's tougher action in London includes an extra £10 charge for pre-2005 diesel cars from October. In Cambridge a 'Clean air zone' and emission charging are on the cards, while an NGO coalition is calling for a Clean Air Act for the 21st Century. […]

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