There are 40,000 UK lives lost prematurely every year due to air pollution. There is a 14% chance you’ll die earlier sooner if you live in a polluted area and a heightened risk of death that will stay with you for decades after exposure to high levels of particulate pollution.
At a time when a Tory Chancellor is still trying to dig himself out of a £4 billion budget black hole, an eye-watering £20 billion is spent on the tragic consequences of air pollution.
This year has brought with it a whole host of sobering statistics on air pollution.
It has also brought an incontrovertible truth: the government’s lack of ambition on air pollution will lead to more British people losing their lives early.
A crucial cornerstone in tackling the problem is seldom mentioned: our European Union membership.
That’s why I was delighted Jeremy Corbyn joined me last month to highlight just how important action at a European level is to tackling air quality.
Over one third of air pollution in the UK is blown in from across the Channel. Even if the Government and Mayor were to pull out all the stops to tackle the problem at home, it would not go far enough.
Cross-border co-operation is crucial. We need common rules and limits to avoid countries undercutting each other to score a competitive advantage. As the VW scandal has shown, a company can break the rules to gain an advantage over its rivals – putting people’s lives at risk.
It is European rules and targets that have been crucial in holding this government to account on air pollution. They were used to drag the Government through the Supreme Court for repeated failure to comply with healthy pollution limits and they are being turned to again for continued Tory negligence.
Last October I helped secured a landmark vote in the European Parliament that will toughen up these rules, backing strict and binding toxic emissions targets from 2020 to 2030.
Last month, crunch negotiations began between the Parliament and member state governments, including our own. As part of the European Parliament’s negotiating team, I will continue to fight for the toughest possible targets.
These targets must be met with action on the ground, something Sadiq Khan has led on during the London Mayoral campaign.
At a local, national and international level Labour is united; we can only fully tackle air pollution by staying in the EU.