Greater Manchester falls short of convincing plan to clean up air pollution

Date published: 15 June 2018

Manchester Friends of the Earth welcomed the launch of the IPPR North 'Atmosphere' report which highlighted the air pollution crisis in Greater Manchester.

The Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham faced some tough questions from students at the Oasis Academy Salford, on the actions being taken to tackle the illegal air pollution levels in Greater Manchester.

Recent court decisions mean that all areas with illegal levels of air pollution - which includes Greater Manchester - have to meet the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution in the 'shortest time possible'

The Government's own evidence shows that the most effective measure to reduce air pollution are Clean Air Zones which covering all polluting vehicles, including private cars, but this option appears to have been ruled out.

Pete Abel from Manchester Friends of the Earth said, "If the most effective Clean Air Zone options have been ruled out, then our challenge to Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor is what measures are you going to introduce that will meet your obligations to reduce illegal air pollution in the shortest possible time?"

The IPPR reports' key findings included:

  • Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country – Central Manchester and North Manchester NHS trusts have emergency admissions at double the national average. And evidence shows that the most vulnerable people and those living in disadvantaged areas are at greater risk from air pollution.
  • A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study shows Manchester to be the second-worst council in England for PM10 pollution (London lies 22nd). Three out of five sites in Greater Manchester monitoring the more worrying PM2.5 pollution currently exceed WHO ‘safe limits’.
  • The cost to the Greater Manchester economy is huge. The King's College London study (commissioned by IPPR North) shows that air pollution is costing between £1 billion and £1.2 billion with every single local authority area affected.
  • Government modelling – based on just five monitoring sites for the whole city region – badly underestimates the extent of the problem and the prevalence of local hotspots. Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Plan is focusing on a handful of congested road ‘links’, but more extensive analysis shows a much wider problem across the whole city.

Manchester Friends of the Earth believes that the Mayor and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) need to provide leadership and to introduce effective measures that reduce air pollution in the 'shortest time possible'. These measures need to reduce single-occupancy car journeys, clean up our diesel buses and trains, and provide an environment that enables and encourages people of all ages to walk and cycle.

The Greater Manchester Mayor must:

  • pledge to phase out diesel vehicles by 2025. 
  • introduce Clean Air Zones covering all high polluting vehicles including cars.
  • lobby the Government to introduce a 21st Century Clean Air Act.
  • clean up the bus fleet in Greater Manchester.
  • commit to traffic reduction measures, such as walking and cycling infrastructure.

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