It’s time for stronger laws for cleaner air

Air pollution affects everyone, from the womb to old age, but is particularly dangerous for the most vulnerable individuals, including children, older people and those with existing health problems. They can also suffer the greatest exposure to air pollution, alongside outdoor and transport workers, people from deprived backgrounds and ethnic minorities.

We have the opportunity to become world leaders in the fight against air pollution: protecting the health of people across the UK and developing the solutions others need. To achieve this, we need new clean air laws to set an effective framework for action and enshrine the right to breathe clean air into domestic law.

We’ve done this before and we can do it again. Many of us in the UK will remember the smoke from coal fires in homes and factories that used to plague our towns and cities. The infamous Great Smog of 1952 caused thousands of deaths in the weeks and years that followed. The public outcry in the face of this disaster served as a wakeup call, bringing politicians, doctors and civil society together to campaign for the creation of the first ever Clean Air Act in 1956. This ground-breaking piece of legislation then helped to get the coal fires out of our towns and cities.

But, although the first Clean Air Act was able to tackle the main source of pollution of the day, decades later, air pollution is still damaging people’s health across the UK as new sources of pollution have grown – it just isn’t visible in the same way. Times have changed and we need new laws to tackle our modern day pollution problem.


We now have a unique opportunity to set up a framework for stronger laws to clean up our air through the Environment Bill. We need the government to wake up as they did after the Great Smog and:

  • Deliver new legislation that is ambitious and far-reaching, making a legally binding commitment to meet World Health Organization guidelines for particulate matter by 2030 and enshrining the right to breathe clean air into domestic law.
  • Tackle the sources of modern air pollution, such as diesel, and accelerate the shift to zero emissions transport, introducing a “clean air duty” that requires all public bodies, such as local authorities and Highways England, to take effective, coordinated action
  • Provide support to people, especially those on low incomes and small business owners, so they can quickly switch to cleaner forms of transport, prioritising protection for the most vulnerable, including children, older people and outdoor workers

Read our briefing paper for government here or if you have more time then you can read our full position paper here.

By working across civil society, the public sector and business we will campaign for legislation that enshrines the right to breathe clean air into domestic 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 for information. If your organisation would like to get involved then contacts us at for more information.


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 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 new clean air legislation should be to provide national and local 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.

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