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‘We must protect our children’s health from air pollution’, says Deputy Minister for Climate Change

'Rhaid inni ddiogelu iechyd ein plant rhag llygredd aer', meddai'r Dirprwy Weinidog dros Newid yn yr Hinsawdd

Tackling air pollution is one of the most complex challenges we face, with no simple solution says new Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, as Wales’ marks Clean Air Day.

The Welsh Government is pressing ahead with plans to introduce a Clean Air Act for Wales, which will set out a framework for setting targets informed by international best practice and the World Health Organisation air quality guidelines. The Act will also enhance our ability to assess and monitor air quality to help reduce the impact of poor air on the health of current and future generations.

Poor air quality is the single largest environmental health risk globally, according to the World Health Organisation, with the effects contributing to reduced life expectancy. In Wales alone poor air quality contributes towards more than 1,000 deaths each year.

Speaking at a Clean Air event in Newport, the Deputy Minister said:

“Over the course of the pandemic we've made big changes to the way we live our lives because we've have followed the science.

“2020 saw children bear the burden of COVID-19, impacting their freedom, education and mental wellbeing. As our children return to their lives, we must ensure they go back to a healthy environment where they can learn and play safely.

“Quieter roads, cleaner air, less noise and a closer connection with nature are all a result of the changes brought about by the pandemic. We now need to use this opportunity to shape the way we respond to air pollution issues to protect our children’s health and secure a cleaner future.

“Business as usual is not an option, we need to do things differently and be willing to be bold. We’re already delivering air quality educational schemes in partnership with EESW STEM Cymru, to empower young people to make a change. We’ll also work together with communities, businesses and the public sector to encourage people to play their part in delivering air quality improvements for a healthier and more resilient Wales.

“Having access to a healthy environment and breathing clean air is a right, not a privilege!”

The environment and climate change will be ‘at the heart of the Welsh Government’s decision-making’, with the First Minister creating a new 'super-Ministry' to bring together environment, transport, planning, housing and energy to help Wales deliver lasting change.

 

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

Statistics

  • In Wales, the estimated burden of poor air quality on early deaths is in an equivalent range of between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths.

    • Please note: Mortality burden estimates are calculations that provide a useful indication of the scale of the air pollution problem in a given area at a certain point in time. They require careful interpretation as the equivalent range of deaths does not refer to ‘actual’ numbers of deaths. They reflect the sum of the small contributions that air pollution exposure makes to life-expectancy reductions amongst all individuals in a population. They take account of multi-pollutant impacts, and present the burden of attributable all-cause (non-accidental) deaths as an ‘effect equivalent to’ range, rather than a central estimate

  • Poor air quality has an especially pronounced impact on the health of the most vulnerable – such as the very young or very old, or people with cardiovascular diseases and respiratory conditions like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • In the first two months of lockdown in Wales, less cars on the road meant a decrease of 36% and 49% in nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxides concentrations, respectively
  • Air pollution is having a profound negative impact on our natural world, with more nitrogen and pollutants in the atmosphere being a leading factor in the threat of extinction of Wales’ plants and animals.

Burns Review

  • Our new Wales Transport Strategy is geared towards improving air quality in our towns and cities by making active travel the natural choice for short trips, and public transport the choice for longer ones.

  • The work of Lord Burns and the South East Wales Transport Commission looked closely at air quality in Newport. Their final report sets out a plan for a modern public transport system for Newport, which will ease congestion around the M4 and improve air quality for residents of the city. We now have a dedicated Delivery Unit set up in Transport for Wales to implement these measures and are working closely with Newport Council to make them a reality.  For instance we are pressing ahead with designing high quality bus and cycle routes between Newport and Cardiff, and looking at how the important Old Green roundabout in central Newport can be improved.

  • More widely the 58 recommendations of Lord Burns point to the need for improvement of the South Wales Main Line and 6 new stations including ones in Newport East and West. Better access to the electrified rail network for the people of Newport will not only enhance air quality, it will improve equitable access to employment and services for all.

 

  • In partnership with Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW/STEM Cymru), the Welsh Government is launching a Wales-wide schools competition on 17 June which will provide an opportunity for KS3 pupils to design a road sign to be used at five sites of nitrogen dioxide exceedance with 50mph speed limits on Welsh roads. The competition and new road sign design aim to increase public awareness of air quality issues and to help promote behaviour change.

General air pollution:

  • The inquest into the death of Ella Adoo Kissi-Debrah concluded that air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbations of her asthma. This tragic case underscores the priority of tackling air pollution. The principal source of Ella’s exposure was traffic emissions (in the form of NO2 and Particulate Matter in excess of WHO Guidelines).

 

Secondary school workshops and road sign competition

  • In partnership with Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW/STEM Cymru), Welsh Government is launching a Wales-wide schools competition on 17 June which will provide an opportunity for KS3 pupils to design a road sign to be be used at five sites of nitrogen dioxide exceedance with 50mph speed limits on Welsh roads.
  • The competition and new road sign design aim to increase public awareness of air quality issues and to help promote behaviour change.