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.