Environmental quality

Supporting detail:

Air quality evidence

Science and research

Defra uses a programme of air quality science and research to help develop and implement policies to improve air quality.

The rationale for this work is set out in the ‘Atmosphere and local environment evidence plan’.

Monitoring air quality

Monitoring tells us the concentration of pollutants in the environment. See the UK-AIR website for information about:

  • air quality monitoring networks
  • current air pollution levels
  • forecasts of air pollution
  • health advice
  • monitoring data
  • main research publications

The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI):

  • compiles estimates of emissions to the air from a wide range of pollution such as road transport and industrial plants
  • provides information on sources of air pollution
  • provides information on past and future trends in emissions
  • is an important input for modelling of pollution concentrations

Defra carries out air quality modelling to:

  • provide information on concentrations of pollutants
  • predict concentrations under different situations, for example as a result of possible new policies
  • forecast air quality

Defra also has a number of research projects investigating the effects of air pollution on vegetation and ecosystems.

The Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) provides independent scientific advice on air quality.

Economics and valuing air quality impacts

It is estimated that particulate air pollution reduces average life expectancy in the UK by around 6 months, worth £16 billion per year. Government should reflect air quality impacts in decision-making wherever possible, in line with HM Treasury’s Green Book guidance.

Defra has published guidance on best practice appraisal approaches for valuing air quality impacts, supported by the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits (IGCB).


See statistics on air quality in the UK.