Green party peer Jenny Jones is pushing a new clean air law after it won first place in the House of Lords ballot for private members’ bills.
Ella’s Law is what people are calling the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, introduced to Parliament by Baroness Jenny Jones in May 2022, named after Ella Adoo Kissi Debrah, the first person in England to have air pollution named as a cause of death by a coroner.
The bill aims to protect the public against air pollution which is one of the biggest public health hazards of our time and responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in the UK.
The bill would establish a right to clean air and set up a commission to oversee government actions and progress. It would also join policies on indoor and outdoor air pollution with actions to combat our climate emergency, and include annual reviews of the latest science.
It would force the government to act to bring air quality in every community up to minimum WHO standards. This would mean people no longer have to breathe air that seriously damages their health. It would also mean a better quality of life in many other ways, too.
Rosamund Adoo Kissi Debrah, Ella’s mum, said; “Ella used to worry people might forget her and move on. She would love to have known that people will remember her for something good.”
Jones said: “Having a nice environment isn’t just a matter of ecology and science, it is a question of social justice. The clean air (human rights) bill would enshrine the human right to healthy air precisely and explicitly in UK law. A suitable date for the government to put it into law would be before the 70th anniversary of the Great Smog later this year”.
According to Hodge Jones & Allen’s Kate Harrison, “The Bill stands a good chance of getting through all three stages in the Lords, before moving into the Commons. It is transformational for UK environmental legislation; elements that the Government had previously not been willing to introduce in the Environment Act are included. For example, the air quality target limits set by the World Health Organisation (“WHO”). It is truly progressive as it treats air as one entity and would protect the rights of current and future generations to enjoy clean air. If successful, the Bill will be a benchmark for future environmental legislation.
The Government has recently proposed setting air pollution limits in England that are twice as high as the WHO recommendations, which poses a serious concern and risk to the health of millions of people in the UK. As air pollution has increased, so has evidence of the negative impacts of air pollution on health, especially the threat posed by ultra-fine particles which can lodge in the brain and other organs.
Should the Bill pass, it will provide every person the right to be able to play a bigger and more significant part in combating air pollution within the UK. For the public, this means they will even be able to challenge regulatory bodies on promises and targets set for improving air quality.