An “ambitious” legally-binding target to limit emissions of fine particulate matter is to be included in an Environmental Bill which is due to be introduced in Parliament today.
Road transport is one of the major emitters of the pollutant, with European Environment Agency figures showing it is responsible for 16% of PM2.5 particulate matter.
The Government says the bill aims to help ensure England maintains and improves its environmental protections when it leaves the EU.
A statement says environmental principles will be enshrined in law and measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.
A new Office for Environmental Protection will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities if necessary.
The statement says poor air quality is the greatest environmental risk to our health.
It added: “The bill will set an ambitious, legally-binding target to ensure emissions of the pollutant with the most significant impact on human health, fine particulate matter, are limited.
“This target will be among the most ambitious in the world and improve the quality of millions of people’s lives.
“Measures will drive change at a local level, improving cooperation between local authorities who have legal responsibility for air quality in their areas, and those who have the ability to do something about it, as well as improving the outdated Clean Air Act.”
In response, Polly Billington, director of UK100, a network which represents 94 local authorities and campaigns on clean air, said: “Air pollution is a national health crisis, contributing to 700 deaths a week, so this legislation is welcome.
“To make it effective, we need a clear timeline by when the UK will meet its responsibilities under legally-binding World Health Organisation targets, an independent watchdog and adequate funding for local government to clean up the air we breathe.
“Enhanced spending from Government and business of £1.5bn could bring a net benefit to the UK economy of around £6.5bn.”
Earlier this year, Fleet News reported that while the focus of particulate matter pollution had traditionally been on exhaust emissions, these are now lower than 'non-exhaust traffic-related particles' from sources such as brake, tyre, clutch and road surface wear.