What is Government doing?
Action to manage and improve air quality is largely driven by European Union law, which sets
legally binding limits for levels of major air pollutants. Separate legislation
exists for emissions of air pollutants.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for ensuring that
these limits are not exceeded in England,
as well as co-ordinating air quality assessments and action plans for the UK as a whole.
The UK Government also sets out air quality standards and objectives in an Air Quality Strategy
and within London, the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy sets out a framework for delivering
improvements to air quality.
Following the Environment Act of 1995 local authorities are also required to review air quality
in their area. If improvements are necessary they have to designate air quality management
areas where they work towards certain air quality objectives. An air quality action plan,
describing the pollution reduction measures, must then be drawn up, but there is no obligation to implement the plan. It can be difficult for
local authorities to make meaningful improvements as they do not always have effective control
over the sources of pollution within their area.