Oxford City Council joins leaders in attending the National Clean Air Summit

Published: Thursday, 14th February 2019

Oxford City Council will this today (14/02) join local authorities to meet Michael Gove MP and outline their priorities for the government to tackle air pollution at the National Clean Air Summit.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, and Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for Safer and Greener Environment will join leaders at the National Clean Air Summit in London, co-hosted by the Mayor of London, UK100 and UNICEF UK.

Councillor Brown will be inviting the Michael Gove MP, Environment Secretary to Oxford to learn more about Oxford's journey to zero.

Councillors Brown and Hayes, who are working in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council on the proposed Zero Emission Zone to clean up dirty air and improve public health in Oxford, will be drawing upon their local insight at the summit.

They are due to be joined by Michael Gove MP, Environment Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, Health Secretary, and Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS.

Following the publication of the Government’s National Air Quality Strategy last month, the summit aims to build a consensus on the actions and powers that are needed by local government to tackle our national air pollution crisis.

This includes highlighting what is needed in the new Environment Bill, making the case for a new national vehicle fleet renewal scheme and ensuring the funding for local and regional authorities need is provided.

The city leaders will propose for the Government’s Environment Bill to:

  • Adopt World Health Organization recommended air pollution limits as legally binding targets to be achieved by 2030 to guarantee the highest health standards that are supported by improved monitoring that assesses air quality and the powers to enforce.
  • Create an independent watchdog that is adequately funded and empowered to hold the Government to account, including through legal action and the levelling of fines, and review and be able to require action needed to reduce air pollution from Government and other public bodies such as Highways England.
  • Grant Local Authorities the powers they need, with necessary resources, to deliver zero emission transport networks.
  • Enable the setting and enforcement of ambitious standards for local air quality, including for solid fuel stoves. Including powers for regional authorities to control emissions from other fixed sources, such as boilers and combined heat and power sources as well as set energy efficiency standards including for existing buildings.
  • Establish adequately resourced local powers to set and enforce emission zones for Non-Road Mobile Machinery.
  • Require co-ordinated action from private and public bodies to improve air quality, such as: ports, Highways England, Network Rail, Homes England, Environment Agency and Directors of Public Health, and provide necessary resource to enable activity.

Councillors Brown and Hayes will join mayors, leaders and representatives from Newcastle, London, Liverpool, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Bristol, Leicester, Sheffield, Reading, Southampton, Cambridge, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham, Cornwall, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bath, and the West of England city region.

This is the second consecutive year that Oxford City Council will be attending the National Clean Air Summit to meet the Environment Secretary.

In the past year, Oxford City Council has engaged directly with the Government on issues relating to air quality:

  • In June, officers from the Environmental Sustainability team were invited to speak to the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee at the House of Lords about air pollution.
  • In August, Councillor Hayes wrote to Michael Gove MP, Environment Secretary, calling on the Government to adopt a 10-point plan with local authorities to provide more powers and funding to tackle toxic air pollution.
  • In September, Councillor Hayes attended the UK Government's Zero Emission Vehicle summit with officers from the Environmental Sustainability Team.
  • In November, Councillor Hayes and officers from the Environmental Sustainability team briefed senior civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the needs for the Clean Air and Environment Act.

Last year, the City Council launched a new Charter for Cleaner Air with Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, calling on the Government to place the health of communities first. The charter calls on the Government to – among other actions – match legal limits on air pollution to World Health Organisation limits, establish an independent watchdog, and adopt a new Clean Air and Environment Act.

The cities of Southampton, Cambridge, and Nottingham, who will be attending the summit, have all signed the charter.

Last month, Oxford City Council, and Oxfordshire County Council published updated proposals for a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in Oxford city centre. The updated proposals follow 15 months of listening to businesses, residents, transport operators and health experts in Oxfordshire and set a journey to zero transport emissions in Oxford by 2035.

The aim of the ZEZ is to tackle Oxford’s toxic air pollution and protect the health of everyone who lives in, works in and visits the city. It is also expected that the ZEZ will improve air pollution levels across Oxfordshire because the buses and taxis that serve Oxford also serve towns and villages across the county.

The City Council has secured £3.25m of Government funding to install charging points for taxis and residents, and upgrade buses to reduce emissions.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The National Clean Air Summit is an important opportunity for us to share our experiences in Oxford with other local authorities and to hear from them about their similar challenges. However, we would like to invite the Secretary of State and his officials to share our learning on our journey to zero. We would like to share our on the ground experience of implementing measures to clean up the air.

“I am looking forward to what I am sure will be useful discussions with Government about how they can help us tackle air pollution in our areas. Along with my fellow council leaders and representatives at the National Clean Air Summit we will be asking for more powers and more funding to help us tackle this very important issue.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for Safer and Greener Environment said: “I’m delighted to be spending Valentine’s Day with the Environment Secretary. A new law lies within our grasp, and councils like Oxford cannot allow the once-in-a-generation chance to slip through our fingers. If the proposed Environment Act is going to give councils the money and powers we need to deal with our air quality crisis, it must be the biggest shake-up of air quality legislation for 60 years. Councils have to be at the front of efforts to tackle toxic fumes and that means councillors helping to create a plan with teeth.”