I was disappointed to see the government threatening to take Bristol City Council to court over its plan to improve the city’s air quality. This plan was a condition of the £500,000 grant I helped to secure from the government in 2016.
As a result, I met Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey this week to help resolve this situation. While Bristol City Council needs to submit its plan to Defra, the Tory government also needs to take responsibility for improving air quality in places like Bristol. Last year environmental lawyers ClientEarth successfully sued the government over its failure to act on air pollution. The government subsequently pushed this responsibility on to local authorities like Bristol – yet there is much more that national government can and should do.
I have been campaigning for clean air in Bristol since long before I was elected in 2015. Once I became an MP I launched the #BristolBreathingBetter Campaign. I was proud to help secure £500,000 of funding to explore options to cut pollution, including a Clean Air Zone.
People are rightly concerned about air pollution in Bristol, which blights our city. Traffic, especially diesel vehicles, is causing dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide. Experts say Bristol’s pollution levels cause 300 premature deaths every year and a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, asthma, lung cancers and many other conditions.
Throughout my time as an MP I have worked with the Council to solve Bristol’s air quality problems. I regularly meet with local campaign groups and experts at the University of the West of England’s pioneering Air Quality Management Resource Centre. Lots of you – the people of Bristol West I represent – have told me about your concerns.
Pollution affects you, whether you are walking to school, or sitting in a car on your way to work. It is therefore in everyone’s interest that we clean up our air.
People in Bristol are generally very environmentally conscious. The city was European Green Capital in 2015 and is home to many of the UK’s most progressive environmental organisations. I am proud to represent a constituency where people walk and cycle to work more than in any other constituency in the country. But individuals cannot ensure clean air on their own.
As a start, the Council must urgently submit its plan to comply with legal limits on nitrogen dioxide, and again, I offer my help. I will of course work with the Mayor, councillors, government, experts, public and anyone else who can help to make Bristol’s air clean.
The city should expedite the long-awaited Clean Air Zone and make it strong and effective. This would be real progress towards the green, clean city that Bristolians deserve.