The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, more popularly known as Ella’s Law, is a new legislation about everyone’s right to breathe clean air. The law passed through the House of Lords on December 2, 2022, and will now be debated in the House of Commons.
Ella’s Law is a tribute to the tragic tale of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the nine-year-old south London resident who died after an asthma attack in 2013. She became the UK’s first resident to have been confirmed as having died due to air pollution. Ella lived with her mother, Rosamund, near the South Circular Road, which is one of London’s most polluted areas.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a Green Party peer, put forward the bill, which would ensure that public bodies would regularly monitor and review pollution and pollutant limits as part of the UK-wide efforts to improve air quality in five years.
Additionally, a citizen’s commission is also tasked to review the UK government’s compliance with regulated targets.
In the House of Commons, Green MP Caroline Lucas will take up Ella’s Law.
Ella’s mother Rosamund was present during the momentous occasion at the House of Commons. Baroness Jones paid tribute to her and Ella and went on to explain what the law can do for the entire UK population. She mentioned energy efficiency, greenhouse gases and pollutants targets, a better approach to enforcement, and renewable energy.
Zack Polanski, Green Party deputy leader, proposed the motion for the bill.
Air pollution and human health
Air pollution has become one of the deadliest threats to the environment and human health. It is now just as dangerous as cigarette smoking and more life-threatening than HIV and AIDS. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Minister of State Lord Benyon spoke on behalf of the government and acknowledged the need for urgent action against dirty air. He also made mention of the Environment Act 2021, which is focused on improving the quality of water and air in the UK, reducing plastic waste, encouraging recycling, and preserving wildlife.
Lord Benyon expressed reservations on how Ella’s Law would be delivered about the Act, but he also understood the need to protect the public from the dangerous effects of toxic pollutants. He knows that public awareness and reducing emissions levels are essential. The bill significantly addresses these goals.
Ella’s Law is supported by The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The great smog of 1952
In her speech, Baroness Jones mentioned the 70th anniversary of the Great Smog in London. In 1952, from December 5 to 9, the whole city was covered by a thick layer of smog, which also reached indoor areas. Around 10,000 to 12,000 people lost their lives and an estimated 10,000 more became ill after being exposed to it.
The Great Smog led to the creation of the first Clean Air Act.
The Dieselgate Scandal
From 1952, we fast forward to September 2015, to another incident that shocked the global automotive industry.
The Dieselgate scandal initially involved only the Volkswagen Group. US authorities found defeat devices in Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles that were sold to American consumers. The devices are used to cheat emissions testing.
At first, VW denied the allegations but soon admitted they knew about the defeat devices. Authorities required the German carmaker to recall affected vehicles so the engines can be replaced with emissions-compliant ones.
After Volkswagen, other carmakers started getting implicated in the diesel emissions scandal, including Mercedes-Benz, Renault, BMW, and Vauxhall. These carmakers are accused of deceiving their customers by selling non-emissions-compliant vehicles that temporarily cap their emissions every time authorities evaluate the said vehicles.
A defeat device senses when a vehicle is in regulatory testing and automatically lowers emissions by bringing levels down to within the limits mandated by the World Health Organization (WHO). As such, the device does not reflect true emissions, so it appears emissions-compliant in test conditions.
However, outside the laboratory and when it is driven on real roads, the vehicle performs poorly and releases nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that far exceed the allowed limits. Thus, the vehicle is a heavy pollutant.
Drivers of defeat device-equipped vehicles unknowingly contribute to air pollution every time they go out on the roads.
Emissions coming from diesel vehicles are the most dangerous. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) contains nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). It forms acid rain, smog, and ground-level ozone, which can destroy vegetation.
NOx emissions also trigger depression and anxiety. It lowers cognitive function, making a person susceptible to developing dementia.
The effects of nitrogen oxide on a person’s health depend on the circumstances of their situation, but the most common ones include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty in breathing
- Lungs filled with fluid
- Emphysema and other respiratory illnesses
- Chronic reduction of lung function
- Vocal cords spasm
- Cardiovascular disease
In recent years, numerous reports have also shown evidence of a link between air pollution and premature death.
These impacts and the carmakers’ deceit are reasons enough for affected drivers to bring forward an emissions claim. Car owners deserve to be compensated for all the dangers that defeat devices have exposed them to.
Should I start my diesel claim right away?
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