Government approves Ireland’s first ever Clean Air Strategy

By Leanne Dempsey Policy News   |   26th Apr 2023

The Government has approved Ireland’s first Clean Air Strategy. This strategy identifies and promotes the coordinated measures needed – across Government – to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner ambient air to save lives, make our towns and cities more liveable and improve our environment.

The strategy commits Ireland to achieving the new WHO (World Health Organisation) guideline values for air quality by 2040, with progress to be measured against interim targets by 2026 and 2030.

The Irish Heart Foundation today (Apr 26) welcomed the Government’s Clean Air Strategy and its commitment to meet the WHO air quality guidelines – but urged for “more ambition” to try to meet these standards sooner than the 2040 target.

“The medical science is overwhelmingly clear, air pollution is harmful to health at every stage of life, with cardiovascular health especially vulnerable to fine particulate matter (PM), the most health-harming air pollutant,”

Mark Murphy, Advocacy Manager – Environmental Health and Tobacco with the Irish Heart Foundation

“Every year that we delay meeting these new WHO guidelines, we risk losing more lives prematurely, largely due to heart disease and stroke.”

It is estimated that 1,400 people lose their lives in Ireland every year as a result of air pollution. The recent Air Pollution and Mortality on the Island of Ireland (Report) by the Irish Heart Foundation and British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland revealed that almost 1,000 lives could be saved on the island of Ireland if authorities adopt and meet WHO guidelines on air pollution.

Heart disease and stroke account for up to 80 per cent of deaths from air pollution, but fatalities are also caused by lung cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and COPD.

These negative health impacts come at a cost, both personally and economically. In addition to premature deaths, air pollution causes absence from work, reduced productivity, higher spending on medicines, and increased hospital admissions.

“The strategy includes several positive commitments that will make a material impact in reducing air pollution, including a review of current legislation and the introduction of a new Clean Air Act."

Mark Murphy, Advocacy Manager – Environmental Health and Tobacco with the Irish Heart Foundation

“This will help deliver cleaner air by requiring the Government to set limits on certain pollutants and strengthen local authorities to take concrete measures to enforce and tackle air pollution.

“Only by providing the necessary financial resources to local authorities can they be equipped to monitor and enforce air quality legislation.”

Mr Murphy said the whole-of-Government approach to the strategy will ensure each department is held accountable for reducing levels of air pollution and improving air quality.

But he insisted more should be done to guarantee that those experiencing energy poverty are prioritised with support.

The Clean Air Strategy can be found here.


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