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Horizon scanning: Air quality policy

The IAQM has updated and reissued its briefing paper on air quality policy, continuing to support the IAQM membership in understanding and engaging with policy developments in the sector.

This is a briefing paper on policy relating to air pollution and indoor and ambient air quality. In recent years, the importance of air pollution has been increasingly recognised, with a series of legislative and governance developments. As such, there are multiple opportunities for positive engagement with policy and decision makers. The paper is intended for IAQM members to encourage awareness of relevant policy issues, support horizon scanning for environmental professionals, and identify opportunities to engage with decision makers and the public on emerging issues linked to air pollution and the wider environmental sciences.

Read the briefing paper

Key messages include:
  • Trends for key emissions are improving, but challenges remain, which has driven public interest and legal challenges.
  • UK climate policy continues to raise risks for air quality, but there are also substantial opportunities to link approaches to air quality and net zero.
  • Public engagement with air quality has been subject to increased politicisation, presenting challenges for policy interventions.
  • The UK general election in 2024 will present uncertainty for policy, requiring professionals to retain their position as an objective source of evidence.
  • Novel contaminants, particularly PFAS and airborne microfibres, require ongoing scrutiny and attention.
  • Developments around the Clean Air Strategy and Air Quality Strategy for England have been controversial, and scrutiny of their delivery in practice will be crucial.
  • Wales has made considerable progress in developing its approach to air quality, soundscapes, and environmental governance; Northern Ireland has a renewed opportunity to make positive changes; and Scotland’s approach is likely to remain consistent until the next Scottish Air Quality Strategy in 2026.
  • Significant political agreements have been reached by the EU for revisions to the Ambient Air Quality Directive, which may lead to positive developments across Europe.
  • Secondary legislation is underway in the UK to revoke some retained EU laws on air quality, though the changes are not currently expected to have significant regulatory impacts.
  • England’s Environmental Improvement Plan, targets framework, and Environmental Principles Policy Statement are now all active, shaping the English approach to air quality.
  • Local Government is increasingly important for delivering on air quality policies, but is increasingly resource-constrained and in need of guidance.
  • Planning reform is subject to ongoing discussions across the UK, creating uncertainty about the future of land use and Environmental Impact Assessment in England, though there have been somewhat positive developments in Scotland and London.
  • Agriculture is playing an increasingly important role in shaping air quality, so the relationship between air quality management and land management will also be increasingly important.
Read the full horizon scanning paper for more information.

If there are any policy-related topics which you would like to see covered by the IAQM, you can get in touch at to let us know your thoughts on potential topics for future briefings, or with your suggestions for other content.
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