In conversation with children – how can we all play a part in a better future?

On 20th May Vera Rodrigues, one of ClairCity’s modellers from the University of Aveiro, participated in an initiative organized by the municipality of Oliveira de Azeméis to bring children into the conversation about climate change, and discuss what can be done about it.

The municipality has been proactive in tackling social-ecological issues, with an Adaptation Plan for Climate Change and an Education for Sustainability strategy. Under this framework, they organize an event every year called The Week for the Changing Climate (in Portuguese “Semana pelo Clima (S)Em Alteração”), in partnership with the Department of Environment and Planning of the University of Aveiro. This event aims to raise awareness and inform young people of climate change, its consequences, and the actions we should adopt to adapt and mitigate climate change.

Due to COVID, this year they needed to adapt, with the municipality, together with the high school Escola Soares de Basto, instead opting to organise four webinar sessions. In total 9 classes of approximately 210 students attended the sessions, from years 5 and 6 (9 – 12 year olds).    

“My talk was about climate change, with a special focus on our actions to adapt and mitigate climate change,” explains Vera. “The title was inspired by our climate change infographic: A better future is possible – how will you play your part?”

“It was really interesting to notice the enthusiasm of this students! I think they are in a particular stage of their lives, where they are very curious and surprised about the situation. I had a lot of reactions about “is it still possible to control this problem”.“

During the ClairCity project Vera and her colleagues worked with a number of schools in the Aveiro Region to raise awareness of the health impacts of air pollution and climate change, and involve students, in the form of a school’s competition, in clean air and zero carbon decision making. One of the participating schools also attended these webinars, testament to the strong relationships developed throughout our engagement process.

If you are a young person or educator wishing to act on air pollution and climate change then head to our take action page.

Safer air for school streets

ClairCity is busy analysing policy ideas around the world that aim to reduce air pollution and improve the lives of urban residents. In this blog, we take a look at school-focused initiatives in the UK.

Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution – a study in London found that children living in more polluted areas had on average 5% less lung capacity. Breathing polluted air increases the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, and new evidence is suggesting there might be links to reduced brain development. Over a child’s lifetime, being exposed to air pollution also means they are more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

What works to protect children?

Schools, as the place that children spend much of their time, are a key location to reduce air pollution.

The UK is not breaking new ground in this matter – in our partner city of Amsterdam, regulation already means that primary schools must be located at least 50m from a main road and 300m from a dual carriageway or motorway. Furthermore, more than 60% of Dutch children under the age of 12 walk or cycle to school. However, local authorities in the UK are starting to play catch-up by addressing traffic around schools and sustainable school travel.

Many schools across the UK are involved in campaigns to get families to switch engines off or encourage families to walk, cycle, take public transport or scoot to school to reduce the number of car journeys, improve road safety and improve the air quality around the school at crucial drop off and pick up times.

Research shows that thinking carefully about the distance families are travelling, and that ensuring local roads, parks and pavements give safe and attractive routes are crucial for the success of these interventions. Providing role models of “low polluting” behaviours and helping families feel confident with the skills and materials they need (apps that may help to find nicer walking routes, how to pump up bike tires…) are also important to guarantee that positive changes stick.

School Streets – the future?

Taking this a step further, School Streets initiatives restrict traffic from accessing the roads around schools at the start and end of the school day. This can include permanent or temporary road closures or restrictions on vehicles accessing key locations, obliging families to park further away or find alternative modes of transport. Councils in Edinburgh, Solihull and several London boroughs are already running School Streets programmes, with other cities and local authorities still considering the idea.

As School Streets involves changes to traffic management, council involvement is crucial. In the cities where School Streets are already running, the councils are using Experimental Traffic Management/Regulation Orders. This means they can test restrictions and incorporate feedback from the community, monitoring the impact on local traffic flows and residents.

School Streets can work for some locations, but within the existing schemes there are also limitations to its rollout. Hackney Council have released a “toolkit for professionals” showing details of their approach. Schools could not participate if they were on “traffic sensitive roads”, main roads or bus routes. Inevitably, this reduces the possibilities for schools where air pollution and traffic are more likely to be an issue, precisely because they are located on major transport routes.

The schemes usually include exemptions, for example for blue badge holders (people with disabilities), residents or businesses within the restricted area, and potentially utilities vehicles. Inevitably, the more exemptions there are, the smaller the difference that a School Streets zone will make, but this is also a balance between the requirements of other road users. There is also a cost involved: changing road signage or layout, and then through enforcement, whether through cameras or patrols.

Overall it is clear, children cannot protect themselves from air pollution and need families, schools, neighbourhoods, local authorities and road agencies to work together. Collaboration is key to ensuring a future for children with clean air.

Corra Boushel, UWE Bristol

Zwycięzcy konkursów

21 marca 2019 w Sali Koncertowej “Muza” w Sosnowcu odbyła się Gala Dobrych Inicjatyw. Jest to coroczna impreza mająca na celu uhonorowanie osób, które na co dzień wpisują się w życie społeczności lokalnej Sosnowca.

Podczas tegorocznej gali ogłoszono zwycięzców konkursu dla szkół „Moje miasto, moja szkoła, mój dom” oraz konkursu filmowego dla seniorów. Przewodniczący Rady Miasta Mateusz Bochenek wręczył nagrody członkom zwycięskich zespołów oraz autorom filmików promujących ekologiczny sposób przemieszczania się.

School competition pilot success

Our schools’ competition “My City, My School, My Home” involves young people aged 13-16 in improving their city.

We tested our online software with the ELTE Trefort Ágoston High School in Hungary. Six teams from the Trefort school played the interactive software with great success. The feedback from the teams was very positive they said they enjoyed the team activity and learnt a lot about how to make clean air and a healthy city.

Many thanks to the staff and teachers from Trefort for their time and enthusiasm.

Clean Air walking tips

As part of Bristol Walking Festival 2018, the ClairCity team put on our trainers and took a short but informative walk around central Bristol. Air Quality Officer Andrew Edwards from Bristol City Council led the walk, showing attendees how the council monitor the air, the issues facing the city and some tips on how to avoid and reduce the air pollution themselves.

For a downloadable flyer version of the information, please see our Resources page.

  • Use the car less when you can, especially if you drive a diesel

    • You are still exposed to air pollution even if you are inside a car, so being in traffic is not safe.
    • 40% of pollution (nitrogen dioxide) in Bristol’s city centre is from diesel cars.
  • Increase your distance from traffic wherever possible

    • Walk along the section of the pavement furthest from vehicles. Even an increase of 1 metre can help.
    • Choose side roads rather than the main road when you have the option.
  • Avoid busy roads

    • When you have the option, always try to walk upwind of the pollution from vehicles
    • If possible avoid busy roads at peak times e.g. during the rush hours when traffic and pollution levels are generally higher
  • If you are particularly sensitive to pollution (e.g. heart condition, severe asthma etc) watch out for alerts on BBC weather forecasts.

    • For most people, it will still be better to use active travel and get some exercise (e.g. walking or cycling) on higher pollution days.
    • By not using the car you are reducing the overall amount of pollution, and exercise has many benefits for our physical and mental health.