Breathing Good Air Matters for Everyone
The recent wildfires in Canada have highlighted the impact of poor air quality for millions of people living in the US and Canada. People have been urged to reduce their exposure by remaining indoors and wearing masks outside. While not on the same scale, the recent Cannich and Daviot wildfires in Scotland and the Rhigos mountain fire in Wales are timely reminders that wildfires are an increasing feature of summers in the UK.
Despite UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the air quality laws have been retained with the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (as amended) along with subsequent regulations. The Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone (Multi-effect Protocol or Gothenburg Protocol) (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, 1999) and subsequent amendments set emission ceiling levels for various pollutants, with EU Directives reflecting these emission ceilings and ambient air quality requirements. In parallel, the WHO has been publishing guidelines, the latest of which was published in 2021 (WHO, 2021). More recently, the UK government (2023) published an air quality strategy for England, which sets out how local authorities may declare air quality management areas with accompanying air quality action plans, to address air quality exceedances. However, local authorities are expected to have an air quality strategy to ensure that there are no breaches to air quality limits. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own set of regulations.
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