Christine McHugh
September 2022

WHO air quality targets: Should the UK adopt them and how would we implement them?

The World Health Organization (WHO) published revised Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) for pollutants in ambient air in September 2021. The guidelines for particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are substantially lower than the previous (2005) guidelines; the updated long-term (annual average) AQG for PM10 is 15µg/m3, for PM2.5 is 5µg/m3 and for NO2 is 10µg/m3.

The UK's Environment Act 2021 also establishes a legally binding duty on government to bring forward at least two new air quality targets in secondary legislation by October 2022. Earlier this year, Defra published it's proposed targets in this area as part of a wider consultation for all new environmental targets. 

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)

There have been criticisms that these targets are not ambitious enough, and do not align with the WHO's guidelines. This forum therefore considers: should the UK adopt targets aligned with the WHO guidelines, and if so, how would we implement them?

Featuring presentations from Claire Holman, Carl Hawkings, Tim Williamson and Michael Bull.