The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, Ella’s Law, makes a step in the right direction
A year ago, in a historic ruling by the coroner, Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of their death. The right to breathe clean air has been on the Government’s agenda since at least 2018, when the Green Party’s Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb brought The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill (“The Bill”) to the House of Lords. The Bill had its first reading on 19 May 2022; Hodge Jones & Allen’s Kate Harrison has provided her comments on the Bill’s reading and what it will mean for the everyday individual, should it be successful.
Kate Harrison, Consultant, Hodge Jones & Allen:
“Today the first reading of The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill took place. The Bill, which looks to protect the public against air pollution – one of the biggest public health concerns of our time and a cause of thousands of premature deaths in the UK – stands a good chance of getting through all three stages in the Lords, before moving into the Commons.
The Bill 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 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 Bill’s objective, which was initially brought to the House of Lords on 5 July 2018 by the Green Party’s Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, includes establishing the right to breathe clean air, to require the Secretary of State to achieve and to maintain clean air in England and Wales as well as to involve Public Health England in setting and reviewing pollutants and their limits.
The Government has proposed that it would set air pollution limits in England that are twice as high as the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) upper limit recommendation, which poses a serious concern and risk to the health of millions of people in the UK exposed to dangerously dirty air. The evidence of the negative impacts of air pollution on health has also grown, 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.
In addition, the ‘Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill is unique as, for the first time, it requires joined up thinking and setting of limits on climate change and local air pollution. Much has been said about nations needing to reach net zero, but it is imperative that we start thinking and taking action about implementing a zero emission strategy that can mitigate the harm to human health and the climate.
With the permission of Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, mother of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the child who became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of their death in a historic ruling by the coroner last year, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb is calling the Clean Air Bill “Ella’s Law”.
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