It’s been a huge year for our clean air team at EJA who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes advocating for cleaner air for all Australians. Much has been done to set us up for an even bigger 2020.

Our achievements in 2019

We co-hosted a roundtable of health experts on air pollution standards

In June, EJA co-convened a health network roundtable with the Lung Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. One of the outcomes of this meeting was the development of a health experts’ position statement on the standards review, which outlines Australian health evidence from the past decade and recommends the standards Australia should adopt.

We facilitated the formation of a National Air Pollution Campaign Coalition

Our “Clean Air Coalition” is made up of allies from the environment and health sectors. The coalition representatives meet regularly to brainstorm, plan and track progress on our campaign.

We hosted 6 public forums during the public consultation phase

EJA hosted 6 public forums about the health impacts of air pollution and the campaign for stronger national standards, with attendees all contributing their own submission to the review and organising others in their networks to do the same.

We made 18,000 submissions!

EJA’s goal in the submissions phase was to provide a platform for Australian governments and environment ministers to hear from as many people as possible about the health impacts of air pollution and how to control the health burden it creates.

When the standards for particle pollution were reviewed in 2015, 140 submissions were received. This time, over 18,000 were received, with more than 95% coming from health, environment and community groups. Basically, we all smashed it!

We improved the veracity of the NEPC’s process for reviewing air pollution standards

We convinced the National Environment Protection Council to review and interrogate the veracity of their economic modelling on the costs and benefits of achieving stronger air pollution standards.

We met with every state and territory environment minister and department

We met with every state and territory environment minister and department to brief them on the health impacts of air pollution and the health-protective standards recommended by Australia’s health sector.

We created an online scorecard rating the position of each minister on air pollution standards

We created an online scorecard rating the position of each minister on air pollution standards, so that the public knows where their government representatives stand on this critical issue. The scorecard has already been a success with ministers agreeing to meet with us and our allies, where previously we were declined meetings.

National Air Pollution standards review

As many of you know, our federal, state and territory environment ministers will soon meet to review national air pollution standards for nitrogen and sulfur dioxides – some of the most toxic air pollutants. It will be the first time these standards have been reviewed in 21 years.

The review represents a once-in-a-generation chance for Australia to catch up with the rest of the world on pollution control.

EJA’s goal is to ensure that ministers vote for strong health-based air pollution standards. We also see the campaign as an opportunity to build active coalitions with Australia’s health community and local groups campaigning on air pollution, as acting to control air pollution is a critical part of a just transition for impacted communities.

Where are we at now?

EJA and our coalition allies from across Australia’s health community have concluded a first round of meetings with every state and territory environment minister!

At each meeting, we briefed Ministers and their teams on the health impacts of air pollution, the health-based standards proposed by Australia’s health community, and the health and economic benefits of setting these standards.

Our key asks are:

  • Bring Australia’s 24-hour standard for sulfur dioxide into line with the World Health Organisation value of 8 parts per billion.
  • Making the annual average for nitrogen dioxide a compliance standard of 9 parts per billion.
  • Expanding the air monitoring network to protect communities at risk from air pollution. Air pollution monitoring data should be publicly available, with access to both real-time and historical data.

So far, no minister has publicly committed to endorsing these standards. With your help we can change this.

What can I do to ensure we win?

EJA plans to meet with Ministers and their advisors again before the final decision in 2020. At these meetings we will be asking each minister to publicly commit to strong health-based standards.

In order to obtain these commitments, we need to make sure that ministers hear us loud and clear.

The more pressure Ministers feel from their constituents and in the media, the more likely we are to win!

We’ve created an online scorecard where you can easily contact your minister via email and twitter. You will be able to see how your Environment Minister stacks up on air pollution and take action to secure their vote.

If you want to do more, get in touch! We can talk about opportunities and tactics for further escalation. Some of our allies are currently working on health forums, detailed air pollution health impact reports, and financial analysis. Let us know your ideas too.

In 2015, EJA and our allies tweeted directly at the Ministers every day for a month in the lead up to their meeting to decide on standards for particle pollution. This direct communication resulted in the Victorian, ACT and Tasmanian ministers adopting the strongest possible standards.

I hold great hope for our success, knowing that we’ve campaigned successfully before, and that we continue to grow stronger and more powerful with experience.

In the house of 2020, our window of opportunity for action on air pollution is wide open.