RCPCH joins call for politicians to take bold action on clean air

RCPCH have supported the development of an open letter calling on all political parties to recognise the importance of clean air
A child running outside holding a kite

RCPCH have joined over 40 other organisations in signing an open letter calling on all political parties to recognise the importance of clean air and take meaningful action to address air pollution. The letter was sent to party leaders, parliamentarians, and manifesto writers on 23 November in a united bid to encourage a stronger commitment to clean air policies in the run-up to the general election. 

The letter asks political parties to commit to four core clean air policies:

  • A Clean Air Act with enhanced air quality targets and the legal right to breathe clean air
  • A public engagement campaign on air quality and health
  • Investment in walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure and facilities 
  • The establishment of Clean Air Frameworks to bring together local authorities and health and social care teams to work together on clean air

RCPCH joined other organisations to co-develop these policy proposals as part of a Clean Air Advisory Group, set up earlier this year by Global Action Plan and Health Equals, with the goal of driving forward political action on clean air and improved health outcomes. The group scrutinised and peer reviewed a range of clean air policies to settle on a final four that are practical, possible and will make a difference to public health in Britain. Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to human health, associated with up 43,000 deaths and millions of cases of ill health in the UK each year.

Dr Helena Clements, RCPCH Officer for Climate Change, said: 

All children deserve the opportunity for the best chance for a healthy start in life. Exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy and early childhood can have harmful and irreversible effects on the development of the lungs and other organs leading to potential long-term health effects well into adulthood. 

For those of us working in child health, we know the effects of air pollution start before birth and are most pronounced in communities that experience deprivation. Evidence of the broader impact of air pollution on children’s lives is becoming increasingly clear showing it is likely a significant driver of poverty and widening health inequalities with emergency admissions for asthma strongly associated with deprivation and poverty.

Our vision is for child health (and children and young people’s voices) to be a central driver for mitigation and adaptation actions to tackle air pollution, and we are working hard to make this a reality through our new clean air programme funded by the Clean Air Fund.

About the Clean Air Advisory Group (CAAG) 

The Clean Air Advisory Group is a collaborative group of seven charities and NGOs managed in partnership by Health Equals and Global Action Plan. Members of the group include the Centre for Mental Health, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Sustrans, the Race Equality Foundation, and the Wildlife Trusts. The CAAG seeks to: increase public and political recognition of air quality as a building block of health, co-develop impactful policy asks, and demonstrate the case for prioritising clean air in political agendas.