Conservative leadership hopefuls warned to take air pollution ‘really seriously’

The mother of a schoolgirl who died after exposure to toxic air has criticised candidates for threatening to abandon green measures.

12 July 2022

Tory leadership candidates must “take air pollution really seriously”, the mother of a London schoolgirl who died after exposure to toxic air has warned.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella was nine years old when she suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013 linked to severe air pollution, has criticised Conservative leadership hopefuls for dismissing green issues.

MPs vying to be the next Prime Minister have largely been silent on the environment – or have suggested rowing back on green policies including the legal target to cut climate emissions to net zero by 2050.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said the net zero target was in the Conservative manifesto in 2019 and was linked to efforts to tackle air pollution.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has urged Tory leadership candidates to take air pollution seriously (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Many measures to tackle climate emissions, such as switching to electric vehicles and replacing gas boilers with electric heat pumps, also reduce local air pollutants.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah warned candidates: “Stop putting this message out there, that you will get rid of green issues like air pollution.

“Your premiership will fail catastrophically because it’s breaking the health service.”

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said there were health costs of £20 billion a year from conditions related to air pollution, which is linked with early deaths and a host of health problems from asthma to dementia, lung cancer and low birth weight, as well as development issues in children.

“It increases the gap in inequality in health because we don’t breathe the same air,” she warned.

“I want them to say they’re going to take air pollution really seriously,” she told the PA news agency.

She added: “When prospective candidates fob off green issues, they make themselves sound like climate deniers.”

But she also urged: “Even if you’re a climate cynic, just believe in air pollution, it affects everything, environment, transport, education, the economy, health especially.”

A leading clean air campaigner, Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah is pushing for a public health campaign on the issue, stronger action on vehicle idling and tougher legal targets to curb pollutants, warning Government proposals are not strong enough.

A new “Ella’s Law” has been introduced as a Lords’ Private Member’s Bill to establish the right to clean air and join policies on air pollution with proposals to combat the climate emergency.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said that under the Environment Act passed last year, the Government must set new targets for curbing air pollutants by October 31.

“The new Government has to set air quality targets, and whoever is coming in charge needs to understand the scale of the problem,” she warned.

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