UK Air Quality Legislation and Targets in 2023

The Environment Act 2021 established a legally binding duty for the UK Government to bring forward two new air quality targets by the end of October. It’s clear that changes are coming for legal requirements around air quality, but what does that mean for Local Authorities and, further down the line, private commercial companies?

We asked our expert partner, Dustscan Ltd, for an account of what this will mean in the short term which you can read below.

Under the Environment Act 2021, the government will have legislated by the end of 2022 for new PM2.5 targets (Reference: Defra’s UK Air webpages)

The proposed air quality targets are:

  • Annual Mean Concentration Target ('concentration target') -  a maximum concentration of 10µg/m3 to be met across England by 2040
  • Population Exposure Reduction Target ('exposure target') -  a 35% reduction in population exposure by 2040 (compared to a base year of 2018).

The way in which the government will expect to demonstrate that it has met the targets is not expected to change, which is to use the measurements of the Automatic Urban and Rural Network of reference measurements, with modelling to ‘join the dots’ in between. However, the use of high-quality, low-cost PM2.5 measurements by devices like the Praxis/Urban will enable a much richer network of accurate measurements. 

Defra is currently investing in the Publicly Available Specification for low-cost sensors to help inform Local Authorities which devices to buy, and how to operate them and interpret their data. Local Air Quality Management Technical Guidance 2022 gives Local Authorities advice on how to consider PM2.5 as part of their duties. 

“We look forward to the Praxis Urban and Cube products for delivery of high-quality data to help authorities target pollution hotspots, really understand the sources and deliver clean air for all.”

- Gordon Allison, Principal Consultant Dustscan Ltd

It seems likely that as Local Authorities start to monitor progress against the targets, they will turn their attention towards managing traffic emissions and ways of working with local organisations that may be contributing to air pollution. Low-cost air quality monitors will be vital for designing effective interventions and evidencing compliance.

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