Who benefits from environmental policy? An environmental justice analysis of air quality change in Britain, 2001–2011


Air quality in Great Britain has improved in recent years, but not enough to prevent the European Commission (EC) taking legal action for non-compliance with limit values. Air quality is a national public health concern, with disease burden associated with current air quality estimated at 29 000 premature deaths per year due to fine particulates, with a further burden due to NO2. National small area analyses showed that in 2001 poor air quality was much more prevalent in socio-economically deprived areas. We extend this social distribution of air quality analysis to consider how the distribution changed over the following decade (2001–2011), a period when significant efforts to meet EC air quality directive limits have been made, and air quality has improved. We find air quality improvement is greatest in the least deprived areas, whilst the most deprived areas bear a disproportionate and rising share of declining air quality including non-compliance with air quality standards. We discuss the implications for health inequalities, progress towards environmental justice, and compatibility of social justice and environmental sustainability objectives.


Mitchell, Gordon Norman, Paul Mullin, Karen


Environmental Research Letters, 2015


air quality, environmental justice, longitudinal analysis, health inequalities, environmental standa