New polling reveals support for transport and air quality measures across UK

New polling has shown ‘significant’ public support for further transport and air quality measures following the Government’s decision to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

The results also reveal public support for stricter air pollution limits, which would help tackle air pollutants from other sources, not just transport.

The data comes at the beginning of the two-week inquest into the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, which will examine the extent to which air pollution contributed to or caused her death.

The YouGov polling reveals that:

– 54% support strengthening laws in line with the World Health Organization guidelines for toxic air pollutants, even if this means placing restrictions on drivers
– 64% of respondents support the creation of car-free zones outside schools during pick-up and drop-off times, even if this makes it less convenient for some parents
– 59% support Government investment in regional bus and train routes, even if this involves taxpayers’ money going towards costs
– 57% support Government investment in making cycling and walking safer, even if this results in longer driving times
– 53% support the introduction of clean air zones that charge the most polluting vehicles to enter cities and towns that breach safety guidelines for air pollution

Polly Billington, director of UK100, said: “The public wants politicians to be ambitious on air pollution. The Government should put the world-class WHO air quality standards into law and our local authorities should commit to rolling out clean air zones and school streets. This polling tells politicians we want our health to come before our convenience.”

However, the polling also revealed that, despite this support for action on air pollution, the use of more sustainable transport choices remains comparatively low. Prior to COVID-19, the majority of people commuted to work by car (56%), with 20% travelling by train/tube or bus, 11% walking and 4% cycling. Of those who commuted by car, 11% did so for journeys of two miles or less. A third of all commutes by car were five miles or less.

People have been using public transport less since COVID-19, which has led to a rise in walking (6%) and cycling (3%), but also driving (11%), among those who have still been commuting into work. More than ever, Government intervention is needed to ensure that this upward trend of walking and cycling continues.

Harriet Edwards, senior policy and project manager for air quality, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “As COVID-19 continues to spread, the importance of healthy resilient lungs has never been more apparent. Air pollution is bad for everybody’s health, but for the one in five people in the UK with existing lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD, exposure to toxic air can cause an immediate flare-up of existing symptoms with potentially devastating consequences. That’s why we need to see urgent action from the government, including bolder air quality laws to reduce air pollution levels, and nationwide public health campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers.”

The Prime Minister recently announced a series of policies in his ten-point climate plan that are expected to have an impact on the nation’s air quality, including a ban on combustion engine sales by 2030 as well as moves to encourage cycling and walking and investment in zero-emission public transport. Meanwhile, the Environment Bill is progressing through Parliament, with campaigners pushing for the Government to enshrine World Health Organization guideline limits for PM2.5 as legally binding targets to be achieved by 2030.

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