Tackling pollution must be Gove's '˜top priority'
High levels of potentially toxic emissions in UK cities has become a major health concern in recent years, with substances like nitrogen dioxide and particulates from car exhausts believed to contribute to 40,000 early deaths.
Previous governments have failed to produce effective plans to cut pollution and have been taken to court twice since 2015 by environmental campaign group ClientEarth.
However, ministers published a new draft air quality strategy just before the election, and the independent think tank the IPPR is asking Mr Gove to use his new role “to set a bold new direction”.
“The last Environment Secretary was dragged kicking and screaming by the courts into publishing better air quality plans,” said IPPR research fellow Harry Quilter-Pinner.
“The truth is that even the draft plans now published fall a long way short of a comprehensive strategy to tackle Britain’s filthy air.
“Air quality is one of the most pressing problems now sitting in Michael Gove’s in-tray.
“He should take the opportunity to set a bold new direction for the decades to come by adopting this bold air quality strategy.”
Mr Gove’s record on the environment has been called into question since his appointment, having repeatedly opposed measures designed to curb carbon dioxide and other emissions.
But his return to Government has been met with relish by landowners, who have praised the Leave campaigners “reputation for robust challenge of the status quo and a reformer’s zeal”. The Country Land and Business Association said Defra “has a major role to play” in Brexit negotiations and it “looks forward” to working with Mr Gove and his team.