Influencing city decision making for a future with clean air

Over the past four years the ClairCity project has been gathering public opinion on the policies they would like to see implemented to improve the quality of the air we breathe. Over 800,000 citizens were engaged in some way, with over 9,000 direct engagements. The project developed mobile games and apps, hosted workshops and webinars, attended public events, ran school lessons and reached out to marginalised communities to involve a representative group as possible in city decision making across six European cities and regions (Amsterdam, The Aveiro Region, Bristol, The Liguria Region, Ljubljana and Sosnowiec).

After citizens preferences were gathered, they were sense checked with policy makers and then modelled to determine whether their ideas could lower carbon emissions and air pollutants faster than business as usual – and overall they did! While citizens often agree with most of the policies already on the table, they ask for greater speed and implementation to reach net zero carbon emissions and pollution levels that meet WHO guidelines.

For their ambitions to be realised, the loop has to be closed between what citizens want and decision making, from local and regional and beyond. Given the set up of the ClairCity project, it was uniquely placed to facilitate this feedback mechanism. Comprised of universities and SMEs, the project already had established connections with local government and lobbying organisations. Thus, following the production of policy reports for each case study, each local/regional team presented the results to these actors.

In Bristol, the team presented their report to the Bristol Climate Change Advisory Committee, appointed by the current government to inform their work in this area, and sent the report to 80 local Councillors and MPs.

In the Aveiro Region, their report was translated into Portuguese and emailed to the Intermunicipal Community of Aveiro region (CIRA) and government representatives. Given the restrictions placed by Lockdown, it was not possible to present in person by the time the report was available.

Similarly, Sosnowiec had their report translated into the local language of Polish and forwarded it to over 30 governmental departments, government representatives and lobbying groups. The Mayor of Sosnowiec then decided to discuss the policy package during the joint meeting of the Mayor and all his deputies. The Chairman of the City Council obliged all members of the Sosnowiec City Council to familiarise themselves with the contents of the Package and in August, the document was discussed in detail by 2 committees of the City Council:

  1. the Committee for City Development and Environmental Protection
  2. the Committee on Municipal Economy and Communication

The Chairman has invited members of the ClairCity working team in Sosnowiec to participate in the meetings.

While we may not know exactly what role ClairCity played in influencing local and regional decision making it is clear that the project team have laid seeds in the minds of various influential actors, who are interested to take a closer look at the results and what they mean.

All of the case studies had to rethink their dissemination activities in light of COVID 19 and understandably this has become a priority for decision makers. However, in spite of this, these issues still want to be discussed. Perhaps it is even because of the growing evidence linking air pollution, health impacts and viral risks that these conversations are gaining traction. Either way, for these six cities and regions, there exists policy packages for each of them that can make inroads in addressing multiple interrelated development issues, which are not only ambitious but have the backing of citizens. We hope these packages will continue to be shared and we welcome interest from other cities and regions looking to carry out similar co-creation processes for cleaner air, healthier citizens and equitable outcomes.

Watch our policy webinar to learn more about the policy packages and our co-creation process, and read the policy briefs here.

EkoSosnowiczanin – ClairCity’s final public engagement activity

On a sunny day in late July, the ClairCity Sosnowiec team made their way to the most popular recreational area in the whole of the city – Stawiki Pond. There aim: to host a competition for residents to improve their knowledge on air pollution, health impacts, sustainable mobility, and ways to combat smog and related issues.

After setting up a marquee with bright ClairCity branding, passers by were invited to test their knowledge on these issues with the chance to win prizes. “The competition was very popular among the residents,” said Edyta Wykurz from the local team.

“Between the questions, we provided the residents with educational and informative content (e.g. where one can get funding for modernization of the home heating system, what the benefits of installing a heating system using renewable energy sources are, how to properly segregate waste, etc.)”. Prizes consisted of a fitness tracker, a ClairCity postcard, reflective band and lanyard and a stop smog sticker.

All of ClairCity’s case study partners have now finished their dissemination activities. ClairCity drew to a close at the end of July and this event was one of the project’s last. Stawiki pond is such a loved space by residents that it was even chosen as a landmark for the Sosnowiec ClairCity Skyline game. It is rather apt therefore that we end our activities in such an iconic place – a place that brings citizens together to be active, to walk, rent bikes, to roller skate and feel safe among the trees and on the beach. An iconic place for Sosnowiec, and a place where a clean air future really does seem possible.

*The event was conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Polish Ministry of Health regarding the organisation of outdoor events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 2020 newsletter: ClairCity disseminates (in lockdown)

Inside this issue: ClairCity’s strategy for maintaining momentum for action on clean air and carbon reductions during lockdown. Read on to access ClairCity’s new graphics to help with your campaigning, and packs for community activists and educators to spread the clean air message on- and offline. In addition, find out about the projects exciting webinar series, taking place June 2020.

Read our digital edition below, or click the PDF image (on the left).

Bristol residents support measures required to achieve cleaner air

Our research found that residents’ suggestions on tackling air quality reflect the ambition of the city to reach clean air compliance and net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible, in line with the Government’s legal requirements. As part of our study, 1,400 Bristol people were asked what they want from their future city. Many indicated they would be willing to drive less in the future and adopt more pro-environmental behaviour.

Three-quarters (74%) of participants surveyed in the ClairCity study want to use public transport or active travel in the future, compared to 54% now. For shopping and leisure, 66% want to use public or active transport in the future, compared to 38% now.

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We found that if residents’ preferences were implemented, compliance with legal levels of air pollutant Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) would be reached in the timeframe required by Government. The study was conducted in 2017, before the announcement of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plan but the policies identified as being popular with citizens were similar to those being developed by Bristol City Council to achieve compliance in the shortest time possible.

In fact, our research showed that citizens supported measures that went further than those currently being developed. Implementing the policies identified by residents would also allow the city to achieve carbon neutrality sooner than current baseline policy ideas, the EU study revealed.

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ClairCity involved citizens in decision-making through a variety of methods, including surveys, workshops (in Brislington, Bishopston, Barton Hill, Knowle West) and an interactive game for smartphones called ClairCity Skylines. They were presented with possible policy measures and asked what they would support to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, as well as what enabling changes could be made to make adoption more favourable. Our modellers across the EU then took these ideas and quantified what the results would be.

The favourite policy measures that resulted from the engagement process were banning/phasing out the most polluting vehicles (not just charging vehicles); making buses greener and cleaner; making public transport cheaper, and creating good alternatives to car use – through better walking and cycling infrastructure.

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Residents taking part in the study also called for a faster implementation of change or more ambitious targets to enable them to be more environmentally friendly. However, these engagements occurred prior to the IPCC report in 2018, which indicated there was a 12 year window in which urgent action on climate change. It is possible the suggested measures would be more ambitious if the research was conducted today.

Our Technical Director, Professor Enda Hayes, Director of UWE Bristol’s Air Quality Management Resource Centre, said:

“Citizens clearly seek ambitious targets to reduce air pollution and climate change causing carbon emissions in Bristol. Our research shows that citizen involvement in these discussions can spur on city wide action. People want to change but need support from our businesses, workplaces,  councils and national government if we want to live with clean air.

“The West of England is faced with the daunting task of reducing air pollution and carbon emissions to safe levels as soon as possible. These citizen supported ideas indicate that it’s not just about banning or phasing out polluting vehicles – the conditions have to be created so that citizens can access local amenities without polluting our environment and health. ClairCity shows that the task of future proofing the city can be sped up with the involvement of Bristol’s citizens.”

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said:

“We have a duty to clean Bristol’s air, and we are currently working hard to achieve legal compliance with the Government’a air quality limits in the shortest possible time.

We welcome these findings and have made significant progress. As always, we will continue to engage and listen to people’s views as our plans develop further”

For the latest information on the clean air plans for Bristol visit https://www.cleanairforbristol.org/


Bristol’s air pollution

Our scientists have revealed why we cause air pollution and carbon emissions in Bristol through our transport choices. Surprisingly, car travel to shopping and leisure activities contributes over half of our emissions – that’s more air pollution than through commuting and business travel.

Across all ages, genders, and income brackets, leisure-time activities generate the most emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and PM10 (40%)*. The data also shows that people use different modes of travel to get to different activities and places – it is less likely to only use one form of transport for all activities. This is despite most current efforts to change travel behaviours being focused on rush hour travel, when people typically commute to and from work.

Air pollution causes five deaths per week in Bristol. Poor air quality disproportionately harms children and the elderly, causing respiratory diseases, cancer and exacerbating heart conditions. Bristol City Council is legally required to reduce air pollution levels and has recently released a Clean Air Plan.

The activities polluting our air are also the same ones producing carbon emissions – the major cause of climate change. Reducing carbon emissions in cities is critical to achieve major cuts in carbon globally, so reducing climate risks. Bristol City Council and the surrounding authorities have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Air pollution is a social justice issue

We also looked at what demographic groups create the most emissions. 26-49-year olds produce the most air pollutants, through greater use of their cars for leisure activities and commuting to work.

People with higher incomes travel more often by car than those from lower incomes – resulting in higher emissions. The overall proportions for travel to each activity stays the same, but the amount of travel, and therefore emissions, increases. This means that richer people travel by car to more work locations, more leisure activities, and more business trips.

Bristolian men contribute 10% more to road NOx emissions than Bristolian women (40% vs 30%). This is largely due to the fact they use their car for commuting and business more. Women and men contribute about the same NOx from buses, although they use them slightly differently.

How did we work this out?

A fine granular dataset of road transport emissions was generated that allowed source allocation not only at the typical level of travel choice (e.g. car, bus, taxi, cycling, walking etc) but also the underlying behaviour or motive (e.g. shopping, commuting, leisure etc) and socio-economic properties of the people travelling (e.g. gender, age, income etc). The scientists say the scientifically robust yet flexible methodology is designed to allow it to use different types of public datasets, which can be applied to different cities in similar fashion. Two produce these findings, they followed two steps:

  1. Create a network model of the city to understand traffic flows at links in road networks to calculate total emissions; and
  2. Merge the emission dataset from step 1 with national travel survey data, which include information on the underlying motives and socio-economic data of travellers of individual trips.

So now what?

Professor Enda Hayes of the Air Quality Management Resource Centre at UWE, Bristol is one of the lead researchers. He explains: “Traditional air quality and carbon policy has often been orientated towards addressing peak travel (i.e. morning and evening commuting) but this evidence helps to reformulate the air quality and carbon policy debate so that societal behaviour and the need for societal change becomes central to achieving low carbon, healthy futures for our cities”.

ClairCity has been involving city residents in future policy ideas since 2016.  Policy suggestions will be combined with citizen preferences and aspirations, in order to generate sophisticated future scenarios that model the options available to each city. This unique approach is raising awareness of air quality in our cities and ultimately allows us to work towards a future with clean air.

We can all make a difference to air pollution. There’s individual changes, such as choosing to change the way we get around the city; collective choices such as working with parents, colleagues, friends or campaign groups to influence group behaviour (e.g. walk to school clubs, cycle to work schemes); or systemic changes made by policy and law makers. We need change on every level – where can you make the biggest difference?

To help you make a change we’ve produced some shareable graphics for you – please download and share widely!

* Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) is a common air pollutant that comes from the combustion of fuels, such as diesel in cars. Particulate Matter 10 (PM10)’s are airborne particles so small that they can penetrate our lungs. PM10 and PM2.5 (even smaller) mainly derive from road transport, such as the dust that is released when we break, from tyres, road dust or from soot from exhausts.

Download our PDF full of shareable graphics – Tweet, post and print till your heart’s content!

December 2019 Newsletter: ClairCity Contributes

The latest edition of our newsletter is out now! In this penultimate newsletter, we share our latest findings, celebrate two successes from our colleagues in Aveiro and Sosnoweic, and give you the scoop on the latest air quality news. Click on the PDF or read the magazine version below.

Open publication – Free publishing

The politics of air quality management

In order to bring air pollution emissions back in line with EU law, tough decisions have to be made by business, governments and citizens across Europe. Such decisions generate resistance as it means a change to the status quo and the redistribution of power. But change is essential to improve our health and create a future with clean air.

A farming crisis

In October Dutch farmers took to the roads, driving their tractors to the Hague to fight back against new rules on nitrogen emissions. They felt they were unfairly treated and as a result several councils decided to scrap tighter rules.

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The Netherlands is currently experiencing a ‘nitrogen oxides pollution crisis’ largely attributed to industrial farming and vehicle emissions. Drastic changes are needed to fall within EU law to protect nature from these emissions, including several that will impact on the farming industry.

Farming is a leading cause of air pollution and climate change and many scientists believe we cannot protect our planetary life support system within the industrial model. Among the Dutch law changes are tougher emissions inventories for farmers and plans to change livestock feed to include an enzyme that reduces nitrogen emissions from cows. However, they will only be implemented if councils can remain united on these national regulatory measures.

Leaving no one behind

As the Dutch farmer case shows, those with the loudest voice (or rather biggest economic stake) have the biggest influence in decision making. What results is watered down measures to continue business as usual (link to our other blog), rather than the radical shifts needed to mitigate our current Climate and Ecological Emergencies. Indeed, over 11,000 international scientists have recently called for urgent action from politicians to stop ‘untold consequences’ of growing carbon and other emissions.  

In the UK a similar pattern is emerging. As a result of failing to tackle one of the root causes of pollution – the private car – transport is now the largest sectoral source of carbon emissions in the UK. Private cars take the lion’s share of these emissions and they are still rising.

Local councils have been left with the unsavoury job of trying to tackle the problem locally, in a political climate that invests in mass road building.

In Bristol, the City Council have spent the last several years preparing its Clean Air Plan. They have consulted communities across the city, including economically deprived areas, and spoken with businesses and various organisations.

If approved by Central Government, the city intends to ban all privately-owned diesel vehicles from entering the city centre from 7am to 3pm, daily, from 2021. “There would also be a wider Clean Air Zone (CAZ) where non-compliant commercial vehicles such as buses, taxis, HGVs and LGVs would be charged. A car scrappage scheme would also be launched” says the Council. “Modelling that informed this ‘hybrid’ approach shows the council can meet the government test for improved air quality in the shortest time possible (by 2025). The hybrid approach also reduces the number of lower income households directly affected by the measures.”

Bristol already has a growing number of cycle lanes and footpaths, along with e-bike hire schemes and hybrid electric buses, but more work is required to spread and connect these across the city, to increase their visibility and appeal. Continued consultations will be required to overcome barriers that communities face to ditching diesel. And in the long-term, changes in the design of neighbourhoods is required to minimise the need to take a polluting vehicle for work, leisure and shopping.

Clean air balancing acts

The process towards reaching net-zero emissions is clearly a challenge for decision makers, as is the nature of politics. Redistributing the centres of power – be that from farmers, car owners or others – will require persistence and collective power. The Climate Strikes and acts of rebellion this year are signs that this table is starting to turn. They are disruptive but they are also constructive, demanding that citizen assemblies be established so the collective voice of ‘the people’ can be amplified.

The ClairCity project offers evidence to support the important role citizens can play in the future decision making of cities and in particular the process towards a future with clean air and net-zero emissions. We will be releasing our results in the coming months so stay tuned for more information.

Aveiro Region Congress 2019: ClairCity Regional Day

On October 17, 2019 ClairCity held it’s “Regional Day”, as part of the Aveiro Region Congress 2019 (16-18 October). This year’s Congress focused on the central themes of transport, environment, civil protection and forests, and took place at the Auditorium of Aveiro Fair and Exhibition Park.

Four issues in particular were on the agenda:

  1. the transfer of the competence of the public passenger transport service to the Municipalities and the Intermunicipal Communities, carried out by the Government in 2015, as well as the legislative responsibilities and defined legal deadlines;
  2. the results of the consultation with citizens of the Aveiro Region under the ClairCity project, revealing a growing importance of the public transport sector for the region;
  3. the policy choices identified by the citizen for the Aveiro Region for the future, as most (9 out of 10) relate to the mobility sector;
  4. the acknowledgment by the Aveiro Intermunicipal Community that the problem of molibility is increasingly a critical and essential factor for the Aveiro Region, including the multipolar and dispersed characteristics of the territory, with specific mobility requirements
ClairCity speaking at the Aveiro Regional Congress
ClairCity speaking at the Aveiro Region Congress 2019

The Aveiro Intermunicipal Community considered the most important issue to reflect and debate to be mobility and its implications for the environment and urban spaces. That is why the Regional Day program was very focused on these themes, given its interconnection and importance for this region.

The event had a global participation of 230 people, both from Aveiro Region and from outside Aveiro Region, including: citizens, municipal policy makers and workers, intermunicipal communities, associations, infrastructures entities, education entities, mobility and transport entities, companies, energy and health entities.

Taking into consideration the themes of the conference and the Regional Day, the Intermunicipal Community decided to promote an exhibition under the ClairCity project. This was to allow the dissemination of examples of good practices of projects and services from each of the eleven municipalities in the region, covering the environment (carbon footprint reduction, air quality), mobility (pedestrian, cycling, electric), climate change adaptation, health and well-being, and energy efficiency.

Many ideas were put forward during the Day. We have chosen to highlight the following recommendations, comments and suggestions:

Recommendations:

  • Optimize the region’s public transport service
  • Optimize the intercity mobility network
  • Promote active mobility – with particular emphasis on citizens with reduced mobility
  • Build bike paths for everyday commuting (eg. to and from work)
  • Reduce the number of free car parks in the region
  • Promote tele-working
  • Implement more energy efficiency measures in the residential sector
  • Modernise residential heating systems
  • Implement measures to control and eliminate agricultural burning
  • Optimise policy articulation at different levels – EU, national, regional and local
  • Explore the co-benefits between air quality, climate, energy and health

Comments and suggestions:

  • Transport and mobility are as essential as the air we breathe and health
  • Citizens’ freedom is also the ability to move
  • Transport and mobility today have new challenges
  • Mobility should be viewed as a service that the consumer chooses
  • Integration of various forms of transport services into a single, easy-to-use service / platform (“Maas” logic)
  • Implementation of other solutions to reduce the need for people to move around (eg. work zones near residential areas; video conferencing)
  • Behaviour change – sharing modes of travel
  • Promote nautical mobility – important in this region that has a vast area of water (Ria de Aveiro Lagoon)
  • Reduction of bureaucracy and simplification of information to citizen services, placed in strategic locations of urban spaces
  • Micromobility (buses / trains / electric / soft modes) is more sustainable and allows for a better quality of life
  • Micromobility – The challenge lies in educating users to comply with the rules
  • Promoting public transport will help to remove / reduce vehicles in cities
  • Seek flexible mobility solutions to adapt to developments as they occur
  • Bicycle – Important Mode for Intermodality
  • Walking – Take better care of degraded floors in urban centers and other public spaces outside urban centres
  • Lack of regulation of insurance in the soft mobility sector and pedestrian protection. There is a lot of room to develop at this level
  • How to solve end-of-life pollution from electric vehicles?
  • The problem of the value of investment in the purchase of electric buses. The solution could be financing measures in the early years.