Effectively tackling air pollution relies on people working together. This includes action by national and local authorities, as well as other public services, private businesses, and households.
In the UK, air quality improvement is not the responsibility of a single public body. Various central government agencies, and local authorities, together cover the various aspects of the total challenge.
Air quality is also a devolved matter, which means that England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland refer to different sets of legislation that set out the particular procedures and standards that must be followed. However, some of the older legislation on which these are based predates some of the Acts of devolution, and so in practice the four UK countries work to a legislative base with more in common than not.
Additionally, although the UK has exited the European Union, the legislative framework provided by various EC directives for air quality management, in particular acceptable emissions levels, still forms the basis of UK targets.
Regulatory frameworks can do much to reduce emissions, but their success relies on good implementation, in each country, region and local authority area. The Clean Air Strategy 2019 places an emphasis upon the powers of devolved administrations, as well as local authorities, to help to make emissions reductions across the nation.
Progress to date has included the introduction of Clean Air Zones, traffic and congestion calming measures, and better consideration of how the built environment (in particular new development) can encourage travel behaviours that are better for air quality. The shift to sustainable fuel alternatives for public transport and the uptake of low emissions vehicles continues, although challenges of infrastructure and affordability remain to be addressed.
Although great strides have been made to tackle pollution in the UK, many big challenges remain. Local authorities and policymakers still have big opportunities ahead.