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.

Citizens at the Centre

Citizens engaging policy-makers on air quality and climate change

How do we get to the scenario in the top-right hand corner of the above image? A scenario where a given city is both ambitious about its clean air and climate change policies and its citizens are involved in the decision-making process? That is the question sustainability scientists have been grappling with for a number of years, and that the ClairCity project sought to explore. Drawing on the latest social and political science and pollution modelling, the research team set to work in understanding the context of their partner cities and regions, engaging citizens through various creative means to gather their preferences, and presenting the outcomes to key city decision makers to influence decision making*.

Around 820,000 citizens were involved in some way or another, with approximately 8,500 directly engaged. The project spoke with people on the streets, at festivals, on webinars, and through various formal and distributed dialogues across each city or region to increase representivity. There was a mobile game, videos of people’s lived experiences, and various schools’ lessons and activities, all designed to spread the ClairCity message and capture the voice of citizens. The project was the largest of its kind and perhaps one of the most creative.

And what did it find out? An overwhelming willingness by citizens to change, and a real appetite for greater policy ambition and speed of implementation. For instance, citizens that drive today, largely want to drive less in the future and choose more sustainable alternatives for their commuting, shopping and leisure trips – across all cities and regions. Many want to choose renewable fuels in the future also, although cost is a big barrier for some cities across Europe. In some cities a lack of awareness on certain sources of air pollutants, in particular wood burners, may be a limiting factor to citizens’ ambition – or alternatively, citizens may not feel able to challenge authorities to do something about these issues and therefore choose not to raise them**. All in all, the willingness was there, but more often than not barriers existed to prevent change from happening sooner.

When local citizens’ top policies were presented to policy makers in their city or region many agreed with their level of ambition, although in some instances they were slowed down, largely as a result of cost. As always with politics, a lot of negotiation and compromise is involved, often bound tightly by purse strings. However, as has been shown in Amsterdam, sometimes you can get a situation where the local government is so ambitious that its citizens are rushing to keep up.

As ClairCity comes to a close in 2020, Covid19 has proven to be a window of opportunity in which to accelerate air quality improvements across Europe. While an awful tragedy, the pandemic opened up fertile ground to push for more ambitious walking and cycling policies. Although the intention was to make places safer for public health (and indeed air pollution worsens coronavirus), the result is still the same – fewer cars on the road and more people on the streets. In The Netherlands they initiated Holiday Streets, in London, England the Mayor committed himself to making central London one of the largest car free spaces seen anywhere in the world, and in Milan, Italy they announced plans to turn 35km of streets to make more space for cyclists and pedestrians. And to ensure the environmental message wasn’t lost, Extinction Rebellion activists took cycle lanes into their own hands in several cities across the UK.

Ultimately, we all have a part to play in acting on these issues. Beyond individual change and technofixes, real momentum can be built through joining together as communities to amplify the message and show the will of citizens, and if done in dialogue with people in positions of power, there is a chance policy may begin to change.

As a result of the ClairCity project, we’ve produced a whole host of resources to support such groups! We have an Educator Pack full of lesson plans and activities, including postcards to send to people of influence and Clean Air Top Trump cards – print them out and use in your next schools outreach day. There’s also our Community Activator Pack, for activists old and new, wishing to reach more marginalised voices and champion their voices in decision-making. Every person’s actions makes a difference, but by joining together we can have a unified voice of the many to bring about change.

Join us this Thursday for our final webinar, which will see organisations from across Bristol sharing their experiences of engaging diverse audiences around these issues and championing their voice to influence decision making.

*Find out more about the process here: www.claircity.eu/our-story

*Find out about the priorities of citizen’s in each of our cities and regions here: www.claircity.eu/reports

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.

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).

ClairCity Webinar Series

We’ve produced a series of webinars to share our findings from the ClairCity project. We’ve got something to suit everyone, so take your pick from the programme and register through our Eventbrite pages linked below. The speakers come from across Europe, and range from scientists to members of local government. They’ll be sharing tips and resources during the webinars, helping you to learn from their experiences and to make your work more effective. We look forward to seeing you!

FOR ALL ATTENDEES: please read the following document on how to use our webinar platform Blackboard Collaborate before signing in to the webinar: Blackboard Collaborate instructions

The webinars will be turned into learning materials in July, so stay tuned on social media for when they are ready.

Engaging citizens on air quality and climate change

Webinar 1: Thursday 11th June, 11:00-12:20 CET

Do you work in the environment sector, sustainability or are a policy advisor? Do you engage members of the public on air quality or climate change? Then this webinar is for you.

Learn from the experiences of a four-year Horizon 2020 research project that sought to engage citizens from 6 cities and regions across Europe. In total, 8302 citizens from all walks of life took part in varied engagement activities. The aim was to make our cities healthier places to live by influencing decision making processes on reducing air pollution and carbon emissions.

Hear from science communicators, game developers and engagement practitioners, and engage in discussion about the types of tools that work for different audiences, from mobile games to schools activities, the challenges and rewards of working with different cultures, and the steps that can be taken to keep the momentum going during times of disruption.

Dr Margarida Sardo and Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers (UWE Bristol, UK)

Andy King (PlayWest, UK)

Eva Csobod and Péter Szuppinger (The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe – REC, Hungary)

This event has ended. You can watch the recording here and read the FAQ of all unanswered questions here.

Citizens at the centre: adding people’s behaviour in the emissions, air quality, health modelling chain

Webinar 2: Thursday 18th June, 14:00-15:10 CET

Are you a modeller, mathematician or data scientist? Do you work in the fields of air quality, health or climate change? Then this webinar is for you.

The webinar will dive into the methodological approach for the innovative modelling in ClairCity, which aimed to include citizens behaviour in the classical modelling approach.

We didn’t just want to know the share of car emission contributing to local air quality problems – we wanted to add knowledge on who’s driving the cars and why. Understanding underlying practices allows for designing effective policy strategies and behaviour changes to improve air quality. – Kris Vanherle, TMLeuven

In this 70 minute interactive session, hear the international team of modellers highlight examples of how they dealt with this, and listen to them present key elements of the modelling on transport and residential energy use. Then gain case specific insights as they elaborate on a few key findings from the city’s that were part of the ClairCity project.

There will be several opportunities to ask questions, and you will come away with new insights and some useful resources to help support your work.

Speakers:

Kris Vanherle (TMLeuven, Belgium)

Vera Rodrigues (University of Aveiro, Portugal)

Angreine Kewo (Technical University of Denmark, DTU)

Enda Hayes (UWE Bristol, UK)

This event has ended. You can watch the recording here and read the FAQ of all unanswered questions here.

Lessons from putting citizens at the centre for air pollution and carbon reductions in cities

Webinar 3: Thursday 25th June, 15:00-16:30 CET

Are you a politician, mayor or regional representative? Do you wonder how to give a greater voice to the citizens of your city or region? Then this webinar is for you.

This session will focus on the ClairCity results of making policies together with citizens. The main policy lessons achieved across our six cities will be discussed in the context of citizen involvement. The speakers will reflect with attendees about the opportunities and costs for policymaking and policy implementation following greater citizen participation. Finally, the session will discuss what policy lessons the ClairCity method can offer to other middle-sized cities aiming at ambitious and citizen-inclusive air quality and carbon policies.

You will be joined by representatives from science, policy and local government, and we may have some special speakers to announce nearer the time.

Lucia Bernal-Saukkonen (DG Environment, European Commission)

Stephan Slingergard, Hans Bolscher and Irati Artola (Trinomics, The Netherlands)

Enda Hayes (UWE Bristol, UK)

Andrew Edwards (Bristol City Council, UK)

Svein Knudsen (NILU, Norway)

This event has ended. You can watch the recording here and read the FAQ of all unanswered questions here.

Citizens engaging policymakers on air quality and climate change

Webinar 4: Thursday 16th July, 12:00-13:00 CET

Are you a campaigner working for social & ecological justice? Do you care about your community and want to take action? Then this is for you

Climate change and air quality are social justice issues. Poor and BAME communities are disproportionately affected, with certain age groups (young and old), and those with existing health conditions (e.g. asthma) particularly vulnerable to air pollution.

Given the urgency needed to address these issues, how can we find the time to slow down and ensure our processes are inclusive? What works at engaging different communities and what lessons can we draw from campaign groups from different organisations working towards the same goals?

This webinar is a chance for you to hear from some of the most influential clean air and climate change campaigners from across Bristol, as they share their experiences from working with marginalised and at-risk communities. They will talk openly about what works and what doesn’t and you will have the chance to reflect, ask questions and forge connections. All participants will leave with a suite of tools and resources to improve their practice and ultimately the effectiveness of our collective mission to include citizens – and the natural resource base upon which we depend – in decision making.

Speakers

Sophie Laggan and Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, UWE Bristol

Zoe Banks-Gross, Playing Out

Our City Our Health, XR Bristol

This event has ended. You can watch the recording here and read the FAQ of all unanswered questions here.

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/


Citizens at the Centre conference

CANCELLED: ClairCity’s final conference on citizen-led air pollution and carbon reductions

Sadly, we have decided to cancel the conference due to the COVID-19.

Written 1/03/2020: Although the Health Authorities in Belgium, the Netherlands and neighbouring countries have not yet advised against travel to the region, the number of consortium partners and external participants who have restricted travel instructions from their organisations and will not be able to attend, as well as possible restrictions on large gatherings to curb the spread of the virus, has led to us having to cancel the conference.

This is sad news for the 100+ people that we expected to gather and disappointing given the relevant findings from ClairCity that we aimed to present and discuss with you, and the hard work and enthusiasm put by the project team and speakers to make this conference happen.

That said, we are exploring potential ways to disseminate the results of ClairCity. We will soon get in touch again to invite you to a series of webinars where you will be able to see the presentations and sessions that we had prepared for the conference, as well as ask questions to our researchers and consultants.  

Cities throughout Europe are faced with the challenge of tackling local air pollution and carbon emissions. ClairCity has been working with citizens, decision-makers and cities across Europe to find out how the involvement of citizens in these decision-making processes can accelerate progress towards clean air and low carbon futures.

If you have any questions, please email Irati Artola.

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!