The Greens NSW believe:
- Clean air is a universal right.
- The earth's atmosphere is a public, natural asset that no one should have rights to pollute.
- Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is harmful to the health of people, life, ecosystems and environments. It is the greatest environmental cause of premature human death globally.
- Air quality standards for both indoor and outdoor environments should be as rigorous as possible, recognising that some pollutants have no known safe level.
- Principles of environmental democracy require governments to carry out regular monitoring of the major air pollutants and air toxins, publish the results and estimate the cost to society of exposure to air pollution.
- Consistent with the polluter pays principle, polluters should contribute to the health and environmental costs of their pollution.
- Government policies should aim to minimise air pollution at source, rather than focus on dilution and dispersion techniques.
- Air quality targets should be set, and incentives and regulations introduced, so that best practice is adopted across the wide spectrum of human activities.
- Emissions from new developments and transport should be considered in the context of existing air quality and future needs.
- For pollutants with no known safe levels, the lowest practical levels should be targeted, and priorities set for tackling major sources of pollutants commensurate with estimates of health and environmental costs.
- PM 2.5 pollution (particulates smaller than 2.5 microns) has no known safe level and is the pollutant most closely linked to adverse health effects including increased risk of premature deaths and hospital admissions from many causes including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, asthma, cancers, dementia and cot-deaths.
- Other harmful pollutants include oxides of nitrogen, ozone, PM10, as well as air toxics (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), benzene and lead). Air toxics cause serious health problems such as cancers and genetic damage and are linked to reduced IQ and learning difficulties.
- PM10 and dust emissions from coal, other mining, and associated transportation and storage operations, pose an unacceptable risk to the health of communities.
The Greens NSW will work towards:
- Ensuring all of New South Wales meets World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines as well as all Australian Ambient Air Quality and Air Toxics National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) standards, targeting even greater reductions for pollutants with no known safe levels.
- Reducing air pollution by multiple approaches, including regulation, taxation measures, technology transfer, mandating emissions-control technology, emission targets and market mechanisms such as carbon pricing.
- Extensive air quality monitoring of all air pollutants using government and appropriately calibrated low-cost community monitors in all 'hot spot' areas likely to exceed WHO Air Quality Guidelines, including locations affected by mining, burning or transporting coal, vehicle emissions, wood smoke, airports and potentially hazardous waste management sites, and ensuring that all data are publicly available and readily accessible via the web.
- The release and total publication of air emissions data from both government and commercial sources and the inclusion of all relevant data including diffuse PM 2.5 sources in the National Pollutant Inventory.
- Implementing the 'polluter pays’ and the 'precautionary’ principles to the fullest extent.
- Establishing pricing mechanisms for all emissions of major air pollutants that reflect the full health costs and impacts of exceeding ecological limits.
- Ongoing public education on the sources of air pollution and the health impacts of both indoor and outdoor air quality.
- Supporting ongoing research into the relationship between human health and air quality, including the cumulative and synergistic effects of air pollution.
- Adequate resources to complete all outstanding Air Quality NEPM reviews as soon as possible, and ongoing reviews (to be completed within one year of commencement) at least every five years.
- Environmental Protection Licences (EPLs) for industrial and commercial emissions to be limited in each airshed to ensure the cumulative emissions in that airshed do not exceed safe levels for human health, ecosystems and planetary boundaries, with annual licensing costs set according to independent estimates of the health and environmental costs of air pollution.
- The development of airshed management plans in relevant areas throughout NSW as a means of monitoring and addressing air quality issues.
- Banning persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) such as brominated flame retardants, endosulfan and mercury that cannot be safely managed in the atmosphere.
Reducing PM 2.5, PAH, other air toxics and ground-level ozone pollution
- Introducing policies to reduce urban and rural emissions to achieve the World Health Organisation PM 2.5 Guidelines in all locations as soon as possible.
- Reducing wood heater pollution, the largest source of urban PM 2.5 and a significant source of PAH and other pollutants, by:
- A new standard for wood heaters based on health costs and a new test that reflects how people operate their heaters in real-life, together with a moratorium on the installation of new heaters until this standard has been developed and implemented;
- Education programs to alert people to the health costs and impacts of current wood heater pollution, and the climate benefits, convenience and lower running costs of alternatives such as reverse cycle air-conditioners;
- Subsidies and support, especially for low income households, funded by a levy on wood heaters that don't satisfy the health-based standard, for replacing of existing heaters, improve energy efficiency and provide indoor filtration systems and other assistance for households affected by wood heater pollution;
- Requiring all wood heaters that do not comply with the new health-based standard to be removed when houses are sold, in conjunction with other measures to phase them out;
- Implementation of other measures recommended by the Centre for Air pollution, Energy and Health Research in their report: “Reducing the health impacts of wood-heaters in Australia”, August 2021.
- Reducing health damage from bushfire pollution, the second largest source of PM 2.5 and a significant source of PAH and other pollutants, by early detection and rapid response to unplanned bushfires combined with research and review to improve procedures for mitigation, control and management, as recommended in the Bushfire Management Policy.
- Reducing vehicle pollution, the third largest source of PM 2.5 and a significant source of PAH and other pollutants, by:
- Phasing out the most polluting diesel and 2-stroke engines including those used in lawnmowers and boats, mandating the same or stricter emissions standards as the European Economic Community (EEC) based on the Real Driving Emissions test;
- Introducing incentives to move away from diesel to less polluting alternatives, and cancelling all diesel subsidies;
- The electrification of transport and the development of affordable electric vehicles to reduce both air pollution and global warming;
- Encouraging greater use of alternatives to private transport, especially active transport, facilitating cycling or walking to bus and train stations, and allowing employees to work at home when appropriate;
- Optimal filtration of emissions from motorway tunnels and power stations;
- Serious consideration of Low Emissions Zones such as those that have successfully reduced PM 2.5 pollution in several European cities.
Reducing indoor pollution
- Banning the installation of new unflued gas heaters in homes and schools.
- Phasing out existing unflued gas heaters with subsidies for replacement heating in cases of financial hardship.
- Appropriate ventilation standards for buildings.
- Pollution monitoring in public buildings, including bushfire shelters, and filtration of polluting particles if measurements exceed WHO Air Quality Guidelines.
- Increased research into regulations and other measures to improve indoor air quality.
- Because lead is highly toxic, especially to children, reducing lead exposure by:
- Spot checks to ensure that lead levels remain as low as possible in high-risk areas such as near mines, smelters and battery factories;
- Interest-free loans to property owners to eliminate lead hazards in affected buildings;
- Mandatory testing of suspected buildings before renovation or demolition;
- Mandatory notification of lead risks for prospective buyers or tenants;
- Other measures to protect people from lead-contaminated buildings and the surrounding soil, including finger prick tests of blood lead levels in children who might have been exposed to lead.
Prevention and mitigation of PM 10 emissions from coal mining and other activities
- Measures to eliminate or reduce the source of coal-dust pollution, especially by shifting from coal to renewable energy sources.
- Stringent monitoring and enforcement of licence conditions and other appropriate measures to reduce particle emissions from mining and transport of minerals.
- Opposing the development of any new coal mines or the expansion of existing coal mines, and the expansion of coal handling infrastructure, because during the transition to a low-carbon-emissions economy, the nation's energy and metallurgical needs can be satisfied by existing coal mines.
- Requiring all mining and transportation companies to cover their loads and stockpiles, to wash coal-transport containers after use, and to fully enclose coal-processing equipment.
- Agricultural practices that reduce soil erosion from wind.
Useful background information
World Health Organisation Clean Air Guidelines; NSW State of the Environment Report on Air Quality; NSW Government Air Emissions Community Web Tool; Centre for Air pollution. energy and health Research Air Pollution Policy Priorities, 2022; NSW Government draft Clean Air Strategy (shows estimated population-weighted PM 2.5 exposures); Real driving emissions test Euro 6d & 6e.
Revised October 2022