Liberal Democrats

F9: Action to Improve Air Quality

Motion passed as amended

Proposed by: Ealing Borough

Mover: Cllr Hina Bokhari AM.

Summation: Cllr Jon Ball.


Conference notes that:

  1. Air pollution is the cause of many thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. In 2019 fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was responsible for more than 33,000 deaths annually in the UK, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for 5,750.
  2. Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health. The World Health Organisation states that by reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases including asthma. In addition, maternal exposure to polluted air can result in premature and low birth-weight babies. Children living in highlighted polluted areas are more likely to have reduced lung growth.
  3. The United Kingdom’s national limits for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are set at four times the level of the World Health Organisation guidelines, and the principal source of these are traffic emissions, with wood-burning stoves also being a major contributing factor in some areas.
  4. The UK was frequently found to be in breach of EU air pollution rules when they applied to the UK before Brexit.
  5. For the first time in December 2020 air pollution exposure was listed as a cause of death, in the tragic death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, and that in a report to prevent future deaths published in April 2021 the coroner recommended a reduction in national limits for particulate matter.
  6. Groups such as the Clean Air Parents’ Network intend to take legal action against the Government to compel them to take action to improve air quality.

Conference believes that:

  1. Everyone has the basic right to breathe clean air and urgent action to achieve this is vital to protect the health of all but particularly our children.
  2. Taking action on air quality will take pressure off the NHS.

Conference reaffirms existing Liberal Democrat policy to:

  1. Legislate to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and small vans, including hybrids, by 2030, and accelerate the installation of charging points.
  2. Oppose any Airport expansion in the South East of England.

Conference supports the introduction of Clean Air Zones in large towns and cities across the UK, including the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London and the Clean Air Zone in Liberal Democrat-controlled Portsmouth.

Conference calls on local authorities to:

  1. Install more pollution sensors near major roads and at every urban school.
  2. Publicise local air quality issues including publishing live pollution levels from their pollution sensors stating specific levels of pollutants using globally recognised units of measurement.
  3. Work to improve air quality in their area.
  4. Take into account likely differential air pollution changes in different roads when designing traffic schemes.
  5. Consider implanting or extending Clean Air Zones.

Conference calls on the Government to:

  1. Urgently bring forward statutory instruments under the Environment Act 2021 to introduce legally binding national limits for particulate matter and other pollutants at or below current WHO guidelines.
  2. Introduce a fully-funded obligation for all local authorities to install and maintain pollution sensors in their areas.
  3. Introduce a scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel vehicles to encourage their more rapid phasing out.
  4. Introduce targeted funding to provide financial support for the operators of buses, taxis and private hire vehicles to switch to less polluting technologies.
  5. Increase the Air Quality Grant Programme which provides funding to local authorities to tackle locally identified air pollution issues.
  6. Increase the maximum penalty that local authorities can apply to drivers leaving their engines idling.

Applicability: England only; except i) (lines 35–37) and 3. (lines 58–59), which are Federal.


Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes.

For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 9. To submit a speaker’s card go to: www.libdems.org.uk/speakers-card.

The deadline for amendments to this motion – see page 2 – and for requests for separate votes – see page 9 – is 13.00, Monday 28 February. Those selected for debate will be published in the Conference Extra and Friday Conference Daily updates to the Conference Agenda.


The FCC has agreed to make the following drafting amendment to the motion:

Delete ii) (line 38) and insert:

ii) Oppose any net increase in airport runways across the UK.


Amendment One (passed)

Proposed by: ALDC

Mover: Zoë Franklin.

Summation: Cllr Geoff Harvey.

Delete III. (lines 14–18) and insert:

III. The United Kingdom’s national limits for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are set at four times the level of the World Health Organisation guidelines, and the principal source of these are transportation, with wood-burning stoves also being a major and growing contributor with some studies suggesting they contribute 15% of particulate pollution.

Delete lines 39–41 and insert:

Conference supports:

A. the introduction of Clean Air Zones in large towns and cities across the UK, including the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London and the Clean Air Zone in Liberal Democrat-controlled Portsmouth.

B. Local initiatives such as the ‘Cough, Cough, Engine Off’ public education programme in Liberal Democrat-controlled Portsmouth.

Delete e) (line 51) and insert:

e) Consider implanting or extending Clean Air Zones, in consultation with residents and local businesses to ensure that such zones reduce net pollution and don’t merely displace activity.

f) Promote schemes to allow the rapid and affordable replacement of petrol and diesel vehicles by lower polluting vehicles by local businesses in conjunction with the introduction of Clean Air zones.

g) Establish No-Idling Zones outside schools.

Delete 3. (lines 58–59) and insert:

3. Introduce a scrappage scheme targeted at the most polluting older vehicles, in particular old diesel vehicles, and at vehicles used by local businesses in proposed Clean Air Zones.

Delete 6. (lines 65–66) and insert:

6. Encourage local authorities to run public education style programmes and allow them to follow these with an increased maximum penalty that they can apply to drivers leaving their engines idling, with the local authorities retaining 100% of the money raised.

7. Fund local authorities to introduce more electric charging points in Clean Air Zones, allowing supply to keep ahead of demand.