Departments will be required to report on an expanded range of emissions from their buildings and operations as part of a new government clean air strategy.
The clean air strategy sets out how the government will work to implement its 25-year environment plan, alongside its clean growth proposals.
The cross government plan, published today by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Transport, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Treasury, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, set out action to reduce emissions across the government estate. In addition to a pledge to make all of the central government car fleet ultra-low emission by 2030, the plan proposes to extend existing requirements that departments report on their plans to reduce carbon emissions to cover air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide.
Launching the plan, environment secretary Michael Gove said air pollution is one of the biggest threats to public health in the UK, and that the strategy would cut the amount it costs society by £1.7bn every year by 2020, rising to £5.3bn in 2030.
“The evidence is clear. While air quality has improved significantly in recent years, air pollution continues to shorten lives, harm our children and reduce quality of life,” he said.
“We must take strong, urgent action. Our ambitious strategy includes new targets, new powers for local government and confirms that our forthcoming Environment Bill will include new primary legislation on air quality.”
Other pledges include plans for legislation to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels. The government has already committed to ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040. The strategy also set out plans beyond transportation, including rules to ensure clean burning domestic stoves. Ministers will also examine ways to give local authorities more powers to upgrade inefficient and polluting heating appliances.
Farmers will also face new requirements to use low emission techniques and minimise pollution from fertiliser use, to tackle the UK's ammonia emissions, 88% of which come from agriculture.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organisation, welcomed the strategy, which he said would “not only help to protect the health of millions of people, but is also an example for the rest of the world to follow”.
“Air pollution kills seven million people globally every year, making it one of the largest and most urgent threats to global health of our time,” he added.