Good air quality is essential for our health, quality of life and the environment. Air becomes polluted when it contains substances which can have a harmful effect on the health of people, animals and vegetation. The main causes of air pollution include transport, domestic combustion and industrial processes.
Many human activities release what are known as greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, these gases include carbon dioxide, methane and low level ozone. The overwhelming body of evidence shows that the level of these gases in the atmosphere is increasing, and that they are starting to warm the planet. In the UK this warming effect is expected to give us warmer, wetter winters and hotter summers with an increased threat of droughts.
The main greenhouse gas of concern is carbon dioxide, or CO2, which is released when we burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. National and international efforts to reduce CO2 emissions have focused on attempts to set limits on CO2 emissions, and encouragement for technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions.
However, these issues are not unrelated:
- Ozone and black carbon are often considered as ‘local’ pollutants, but are also major climate change drivers. Other local air pollutants can also affect the climate.
- Many of the sources of both CO2 and local air pollution are the same, including vehicle exhausts, factory chimneys, energy and heating.
Great benefits can be realised if both issues are tackled in an integrated way. However initiatives which focus just on one issue or pollutant, without regard to others, can lead to major increases in pollution. Environmental Protection UK is working to address both issues in a more integrated manner.
Our new Air Quality and Climate Change Guidance for Local Authorities is now available.
Our Air Quality and Climate Change work is aimed at promoting integrated policies and practices that reduce the negative effects on health and the environment of both air pollution and greenhouse gases.