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Air pollution: action in a changing climate

Over the last 50 years air quality has improved beyond all recognition. The choking smogs of the 1950s are a thing of the past, driven by concerted action especially on energy use and transport. But air pollution still significantly reduces average life expectancy, causes many extra admissions to hospitals, and damages the natural environment. Surveys repeatedly show that people care strongly about air pollution, predominantly in urban and industrial areas but also in other surroundings. So, in common with other countries, we have to take further steps.

Taking action to reduce the effects of climate change provides an excellent opportunity to deliver further benefits to both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Both arise from broadly the same sources and will therefore benefit from many of the same measures; so the combined benefits are substantially greater, when we compare them with the costs, rather than if we look at each group of benefits in isolation.

Now is the right time to consider how we can achieve these additional benefits, particularly from improving public health, through a closer integration of air quality and climate change policies. In the much shorter term we face challenges in meeting our current air quality targets, especially in relation to nitrogen dioxide and also particulate matter.

This document summarises the main issues concerning air pollution and outlines the ways in which we can make the most of the interconnections between measures to address air pollution and climate change. It does not replace the more detailed strategy on air quality for the UK which we published in 2007; but it is intended to outline a wider vision for how we can link the two drivers for action more closely together. It also sets out the progress we are making on delivering our short-term air quality targets.

Download the document here: Air pollution: action in a changing climate