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Our Air, Our Commitment! - toxic air quality across the Midlands

May 18, 2020 9:08 PM
By David McKenzie

David Mckenzie (David Mckenzie)Just under 30,000 people are at serious risk of dying from toxic air quality across the Midlands over the next decade. We can no longer ignore the reality here, we must tackle pollution not only to save our environment but to save lives!

The British Heart Foundation has warned the increase in the likelihood of strokes and related heart disease could lead to untimely deaths across the region. With the worst affected area being Lincolnshire.

Here's the problem, many across the region see the issue of Air pollution as something attributed to large Mega-Metro destinations such as London, Manchester or Glasgow for example. The reality is our smaller cities, towns and even rural locations are no longer free from dirty air.

The recently founded Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England, are calling for WHO guidelines on particulate matter to be adopted into UK law, and met by 2030.

As it's estimated that up to 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution in the UK every year.

We have all suffered through the recent events surrounding Covid-19, we have seen a mass gathering of support from the general public in supporting our NHS. Allowing our key workers to keep from being swamped, able to prioritise care to those who need it the most. We must become better at communicating the real risk that polluted air creates for our NHS.

Let's future proof our public spending now, invest in clean air programmes today and avoid the burden not only of extra patient capacity in the next decade but extra funding commitment needed to tackle the attributed health problems.

Language is key to how we communicate this problem, policy research shows 17-19% of people when asked how much Climate Change concerns them, respond in the bracket extremely worried. When you change the language to Air Pollution, the responses jump to 50%.

Now here's where the Liberal Democrats can make a real difference. Tackling air pollution and air quality starts locally, we shouldn't need national government directive to force the needle on this issue. Arnold Schwarzenegger said we must liberate the transformative powers of sub-national governments to tackle this issue.

I think the issue starts with public transport; we must get the majority of people out of pollutant vehicles on their daily commute. That means we continue to push for the reopening of the Beeching lines, which would allow thousands to no longer have to choose between full car journey commute or a part car-part rail/bus option. Rural communities must have access to good quality, reliable public transport.

I'll talk in a personal capacity now, as this may be contentious plan and appreciate it would need proper checks and balances. I've always advocated for a proper investigation into free public transport in Metro areas, this has been successfully implemented in many cities or larger towns across Europe. Take Hasselt, Belgium for instance by introducing free Bus transport in 1997 by 2006 increased bus usage by 13%. The money they saved in relaying road surfaces went towards subsidising the cost of fares.

I was recently appointed the interim-Policy officer for the Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England, I do not have a monopoly on good ideas. If you, like me, care about saving lives and protecting our environment then please come and contribute!

David McKenzie is the former Chair of the Young Fabians Committee on Devolution and Local Government, he has worked with a number of Environment and Wildlife organisations previously and is a member of the John Muir Trust. He is also a member of the Green Liberal Democrats.

You can already follow Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England on Twitter, at: @lib_heart.

https://twitter.com/lib_heart

If you'd like to be involved/sign up to our Heart of England's e-newsletter, you can e-mail Mathew Hulbert via

mhulbert1980@gmail.com