Inisters have been accused of risking the health of Londoners by “kicking the can in the street” in the fight against toxic air.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has criticized the government for setting a target of just 2040 to reduce tiny PM2.5 levels of particulate matter, which are particularly harmful to human health.
He spoke out after the Standard reported how ministers failed to live up to their promise not to dilute environmental standards post-Brexit.
The European Union’s proposed target for PM2.5 pollution is 2030, a decade ahead of the UK government’s current proposal.
The delay drew criticism from the government’s regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency, which also stressed that it had failed to announce new environmental targets, as it should have done under the Environment Act 2021.
Mr Khan tweeted: “The government’s new air quality targets are too weak and doom another generation to at least 18 more years of polluted air.
“When it comes to people’s health, you can’t fall by the wayside.
“We’re working hard to clean up London’s toxic air – government needs to step up.”
But some Tory MPs, including Cities of London and Westminster Nickie Aiken, believe City Hall and boroughs also need to do more to reduce air pollution.
The Government proposes an annual mean concentration target for PM2.5 of no more than 10 micrograms per cubic meter (µg m-3) to be achieved across England by 2040.
The European Union has set itself the goal of achieving this goal by 2030.
Clean air advocate Katie Nield, of charity ClientEarth, said: “It looks like another generation of children will be left behind by government lethargy in tackling air pollution.
“Ministers need to seriously reconsider their proposal and commit to a 2030 deadline, in line with what science says is possible and what the world’s leading health experts say is acceptable.”
Scientists stress that toxic air composed of PM2.5 particulate matter, much smaller than the width of a human hair, is so harmful that it can penetrate deep into people’s lungs and bloodstream, contributing to heart and respiratory diseases.
It comes from road traffic, industrial emissions, use of non-smokeless fuels for heating, campfires, and other sources.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Our findings show that with appropriate action, we can reduce PM2.5 to below 10 micrograms in most of the country by 2030. We have proposed targets for 2040 because then our evidence shows that this can be achieved everywhere without incurring disproportionate costs for individuals and businesses.”