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.

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BAU-UPS-NOx-PM10-emissions-by-motive3.png

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Kilotonnes-CO2-eq-graph2-1-1024x655.png

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Top-5-policies_Bristol-1024x512.png

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/


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.

Image result for dutch farmers protest

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.

Genova City Day

Il 25 ottobre a Genova, nell’ambito del Festival della scienza si è svolto il city day del progetto.

Nel corso dell’evento, il vicedirettore della Direzione ambiente della Liguria e l’assessore all’ambiente hanno descritto la situazione della Liguria ed il direttore tecnico di Techne Consulting ha svolto una presentazione del progetto e dei risultati ottenuti fino ad ora nel coinvolgimento dei cittadini e dei portatori di interesse.

Sono stati inoltre premiati i migliori cortometraggi realizzati dai cittadini sulla mobilità sostenibile ed il vincitore della competizione scolastica “La mia città, la mia scuola, la mia casa”, promossi nell’ambito del progetto.

Space to Breathe

Gridlock in Bristol @Robert Ashby
Gridlock in Bristol @Robert Ashby

Gridlock – a word we hear far too often in European cities. Like clogged arteries, our cities struggle to push through their traffic and continue business as usual. When the blood stops pumping, it is a sign that the (transport) system is failing. In this series of blogs we look at some of the main air pollution challenges for each of our partner cities… starting with Bristol

In Britain, in one decade, the yearly commute is now on average 18 hours longer. Britain’s rail network is overcrowded, its bus service has been severely impacted by ongoing budget cuts despite it being the most frequently used mode of public transport, and cars and vans remain the most popular mode of travel for trips. Two thirds (62%) of all trips are made by car/van, compared to 25% for walking, 8% for bus and just 2% each for trains and bicycles. Most trips made by private car continue to be less than 5 miles (see NTS0308). That equates to over 12 trillion tonnes of CO2 per year emitted each year through these largely avoidable car journeys[1] – or 24% of UK’s domestic greenhouse gases. Pollution from cars and vans costs £6 billion per year in health damages, which to bring the analogy full circle, clogs our arteries. And it effects the poorest the most – in Bristol, you only have to look at the houses either side of the M32 for this to sink in.

Freeing up space

If these sub-5-mile journeys were avoided then two thirds of road users in any given day would be removed from the equation. This frees up the roads for a much improved bus network, and creates space for millions more cyclists who were once fearful of being knocked over during rush hour. With this new space, we could also improve life for those who can’t get about by active travel. Trams could be installed, cycle and foot paths built and pedestrian zones created across cities, not to mention all the possibilities for recreation and wildlife corridors! It’s these policy decisions which ClairCity has been examining through its Delphi process, with many Bristol residents showing great support for major changes in our cities and a preference not to travel by car to work in the future.

Neighbourhood design and life in the future

We need to consider how we will all work, live and play in the future. For our city to work as it should, we need a transport system which can get people from a-to-b safely, in a reasonable time and in the healthiest way possible.

Part of the reason why people travel by car/van is because their local neighbourhoods lack local amenities, such as green grocers, sports clubs, libraries, or places of worship, meaning not only are people needing to drive for their leisure pursuits, but they are finding it increasingly harder to have enough social contact in a given week. Each neighbourhood needs to be designed with environmental and social impact in mind.

Imagine if more people worked from home, could use local co-working spaces, or teleconferencing instead of travelling to work every day? And with more local amenities, people can enjoy the places where they live and hopefully gain upskilled work in climate adaptation, community organising or some other role that has not been invented yet.

We are already starting to see some of these ideas come to pass. From National Clean Air Day, to Playing Out, School Streets, school buses, cycle-to-work schemes, and city electric car rentals there are already many committed activists out there. With Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset Councils all declaring a Climate Emergency along with pledges to Bristol’s Leap Energy Partnership (the biggest ever council-led energy investment programme in the UK) we are off to a promising start.

Show me the money

However, the battle has not yet been won. Local governments are struggling to keep up with the pace of change required and marginalised communities continue to be left out of decision-making processes, meaning those with the biggest carbon footprint continue to have the biggest voice.

As Alex Morse wrote earlier this year in the Independent: “The problem is, Bristol is leading a blindfolded egg and spoon race. It has scraped together a £250,000 emergency budget, and like all the other cities it will have to invent its own direction, lacks crucial powers and has to rely on much goodwill, luck and voluntary compliance to address some of its biggest carbon emission problems. There is no jurisdiction over local businesses or residents to audit or regulate their carbon emissions”.

Holding business accountable

At the moment, some of the biggest industries, either operating in the city or supplying goods to the city, leave us in the dark about their carbon footprint. As Morse adds: “Either we adopt the mantra of buying local or we are largely dumping our carbon overseas”.

Big businesses need to be held accountable for their impact, for example by auditing the carbon footprint of teams or departments, the products they make or services, and where they are investing their money (including pension schemes). Meanwhile, central Governments need to implement a principle of ecocide to prevent environmental destruction, invest in and subsidise renewable energy, invest in community infrastructure and prioritise our national railways – the list is not exhaustive.

Demanding change

At a collective level, we can unite around these issues to push for change, and draw on precedents to help the campaign.

Some things we could do in Bristol to help shift the balance of power could include:

We need all hands-on deck in Bristol to ensure we can reach net carbon neutrality by 2030 and ensure that marginalised voices are included. What actions could your community take? Share your comments below.

[1] 46.9m (62% of the population) x (5 miles x 364 days) = 85358e10 miles/y). 5mi in a Diesel car (with an average MPG of 51.7) = 1.15kg CO2. 1.15kg x 85358e10 = 12803700000000000 = 12,803,700,000,000 Tonnes CO2. This is not the most sophisticated calculation, and it is unlikely that all of these drivers commute by themselves… but the fact of the matter is that we are polluting a lot of unnecessary CO2.

Why business as usual is just not good enough

ClairCity has been modelling emissions scenarios for each of their partner cities across Europe to figure out whether they are on track to meet air quality and carbon emission targets. Ahead of the Global Strike for Climate on September 20th and Zero Emissions Day on September 21st, we speak with our head modeller Kris Vanherle from TML in Belgium about ‘business as usual’ and whether that is enough for a future with clean air.

 

Why business as usual is not enough
Example of emissions modelling, showing how current pledges (business as usual) will almost certainly exceed 2° C warming. Source: World bank (2012). Turn down the heat. Why a 4˚C warmer world should be avoided.

 

So what is business as usual?

A business as usual (BAU) scenario is used as a benchmark to assess the impact of new policy measures in alternative emissions scenarios. Typically, the BAU scenario takes a central/conservative estimate of technological changes. Most importantly, they ONLY considers confirmed policy measures taken in the past that have a prolonged effect in the future.

A typical example in the case of air quality is emission standards of new cars (the so-called EURO-standards). While this policy measure is fully implemented, the impact takes some time to come into full effect because of the slow pace of vehicle replacement.

Apart from policy measures, a BAU scenario typically takes a central/conservative estimate in new technological evolutions – think electric vehicles. As well as a central/conservative estimate in non-technical trends such as population growth and/or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. For variations in key trends it is possible to produce a range of figures, or a “bandwidth” for an expected future without further policy action.

 

What has your modelling revealed in ClairCity?

When assessing the BAU scenario in the ClairCity project, we’ve found that air quality will improve over time. This is due to existing policy measures coming into full effect, in combination with generic technological trends. These trends include the uptake of electric vehicles and lower domestic energy demand with new building techniques.

However, air pollution is not solved in full in the BAU scenario, which means that people will continue to suffer the health impacts. Even zero-emission electric vehicles cannot solve the problem due to particulate matter emitted from tyre and brake wear and tear. Moreover, the pace of improvement is slow and will continue to lead to exceedances of EU air quality limits in the immediate future. This leads to a twofold challenge: how to solve the immediate issue of exceedances of air quality standards; and how to develop new measures to improve air quality in the long-run.

 

What do you recommend we do about this?

On the basis of ClairCity findings, we recommend further (policy) action at two levels. Firstly, to ensure air quality is within current standards for human health, we need strong action to reduce pollution levels immediately. Examples of effective measures to address this are restricting access for polluting cars in city centres or banning the use of solid fuels for residential heating (and actually enforcing the ban!).

Secondly, action is also needed in the long-term as it is expected air quality standards will tighten further as evidence mounts for the adverse health effects from even low levels of pollution. To achieve compliance to more stringent targets and under continued pressure from concerned citizens, city authorities in particular will have to be more ambitious. This will require developing a more profound long-term strategy to fundamentally solve the problem of air pollution and carbon emissions.

 

What will that involve?

This will involve measures that have a strong yet gradual effect in the future and will impact the very core of the city. This means changing how we get around in the city, moving away from private car transport to more active travel, and requiring a fundamentally different strategy from city authorities in terms of public infrastructure investment. More ambitious urban planning and building codes for new buildings could also lead to zero-emissions of houses.

School Strike 4 Climate - Be Part of the Solution not the Pollution
School Strike 4 Climate Zagreb Demonstrations

We can see in the BAU scenario there is clear progress, but this is not enough to stop the impacts on human and planetary health.

ClairCity is urging for more action in the short-term to avoid air pollution exceedances and carbon emissions, and to achieve a future with clean air for all.

 

 


 

Zero Emissions Day happens each year on September 21st. It raises awareness of the need to act on air quality through a 24-hour Moratorium on the use of Fossil Fuels: http://zeroemissionsday.org/

The Global Climate Strike takes place from September 20-27th and is connected to School Strike 4 Climate (Fridays for Future). https://globalclimatestrike.net/

ClairCity has been producing resources for citizens wanting to act on these issues. Find them in our Take Action section or click on the cities above to find out how you can take action locally. We’ll be adding more resources in the coming months so stay tuned!

 

 

Lunch with the President for Aveiro region seniors

To celebrate our video activity with older people in the Aveiro Region in 2018/19, we organised a lunch with some very special guests. The President of the region (CIRA), José Ribau Esteves, along with the President of Albergaria-a-Velha Municipality, António Loureiro, had lunch with our winning video entrant, José Seixas and his wife Maria. Olga Cravo from the ClairCity project also joined the lunch, held at the “Mercado do Peixe” restaurant at the end of April 2019.

Mr Seixas, a resident of Albergaria-a-Velha, is involved in the Idade Maior Program which was how he had come to get involved in the ClairCity video project. The Idade Maior program is an initiative of the Municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha, working with people aged 55 or over.  The program aims to promote new discoveries and healthy lifestyles, and value lifelong learning and the capacities, skills, knowledge and culture of older age groups. The activities are selected to increase the self-esteem and self-confidence of seniors and promote social opportunities and the exchange of experiences.

Watch José ‘s winning video: