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Opinion: Journey to improve air quality is vital

PUBLISHED: 14:46 23 April 2019

Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, has declared a climate emergency.

Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, has declared a climate emergency.

Rokhsana Fiaz

At the last meeting of Newham full council I joined colleagues in backing a pledge that puts saving lives and our environment at the heart of my administration's priorities.

By declaring a “climate emergency” and taking steps to address air pollution through an Air Quality Action Plan and Task Force we signal a step-change in council policy.

Halting the rise in global temperatures and reducing the levels of dangerous toxins in our atmosphere requires immediate action, for the health and wellbeing of our residents today, and for our planet and humanity's future in the years to come. To this end, we will be taking forward a range of proposals and actions which both improves our air quality and addresses the wider issue of climate change.

The evidence and imperative for action couldn't be clearer. According to Public Health England, Newham recorded the highest number of deaths in London attributable to air pollution. Seven out of every 100 residents dying prematurely from conditions like asthma and cardio-vascular disease, which are caused or exacerbated by the toxins we breathe in every day.

We are in the advanced stages of creating our action plan to make sure everything we do is joined up to take proper account of environmental impacts and deliver genuinely better health outcomes for residents. Key to this will be steps to reduce the impact of polluting vehicles and improve our green spaces to encourage walking, cycling and physical activity. We can't solve the problems of emissions and air pollution on our own. We will work with residents, community groups, campaigners, the Mayor of London, Transport for London, and the government to find the most effective ways to tackle poor air quality.

We pledged to phase out single-use plastics from council buildings, install air quality monitors at our schools, and publish annual reports on our progress. We will also design and build a borough that prioritises sustainable transport.

We are on a journey together. The stakes couldn't be higher. It's matter of life or death.

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