Clean Air Human Rights Bill Rejected

Cars in traffic

March 30, 2023

A proposed law to make clean air a human right has been rejected and no one is talking about it

The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill is informally known as ‘Ella’s Law’ (a Private Member’s Bill) after Ella Adoo Kissi-Debrah. Ella died aged nine after 27 admissions to hospital with severe asthma due to illegal levels of NO2 near her home in Lewisham.

Despite air pollution claiming an estimated 36,000 lives each year, Ella is the only person to have it stated on her death certificate. This link was only made after her death when a clear correlation was found between spikes in air pollution near her home and her hospital admissions. The coroner concluded that “Ella’s mother [Rosamund Kissi-Debrah] was not given information about the health risks of air pollution and its potential to exacerbate asthma. If she had been given this information, she would have taken steps which might have prevented Ella’s death.”

We recently attended the launch of the Camden Clean Air Action Plan, where we heard about how Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Ella was treated, has now added the air pollution levels where patients live onto patient files, so that doctors are more likely to explore it as an underlying reason for symptoms. We have also been working with Lewisham Council to educate hundreds of children and their parents about air pollution, its impact, and how we can work to reduce it.

Ella’s Law would have:

  • Established a human right to clean air in UK law
  • Required the government to achieve WHO legal limits for clean air within five years
  • Required the government to publish air quality reports and warnings; and
  • Set up a commission to oversee government progress.

Debate in Parliament

With her mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, in attendance, Ella’s Law was scheduled to be debated in parliament last Friday (Friday 24 March 2023), after passing the House of Lords. However, the government objected to it, which means it will not become law. Unfortunately, Private Members’ Bills, as Ella’s Law is, don’t generally become law as they are not put forward by the government and as such, do not get much airtime in the house. However, whether this is a Private Members’ Bill or not, not even allowing this bill to progress to a debate suggests that air pollution is not recognised as the huge health crisis it is, despite the thousands of lives that it takes each year.

This decision follows the government’s rejection of a Lords’ amendment for tougher air pollution limits within the Environment Act 2021. Our UK limits are currently four times higher than WHO guidelines. In response to Ella’s inquest, the government announced it would have new legal air pollution limits by October 2022, but this has still not happened.

Government funded projects

Although that the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill has been rejected, the government has provided support for projects to address air pollution and increase awareness of emissions and the impact it has on our health. These range from school workshops to sustainable transport projects for businesses.

Recently, the British government awarded more than £10 million of funding for projects to tackle air pollution, including our upcoming engagement work in East Hertfordshire, which we very much welcome. We will be sharing news shortly of our project on our website and via our social media.

How you can get involved

Contact us

If you want to monitor or raise awareness about air pollution in your borough whether that’s through our air quality monitoring services, Breathe Clean and Anti-Idling school workshops or sustainable transport projects, please contact Head of Consulting, Oli Ivens, at oli.ivens@mpsmartertravel.co.uk.