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!



3ª Conferência Anual ClairCity – CIRA

Decorreu, com enorme sucesso, no passado dia 10 de abril de 2019, no edifício da Assembleia Municipal de Aveiro, a terceira Conferência Anual ClairCity, uma iniciativa conjunta entre a Universidade de Aveiro (UA) e a Comunidade Intermunicipal da Região de Aveiro (CIRA).

A conferência teve como objetivo principal sensibilizar os cidadãos da CIRA em relação à poluição atmosférica e às emissões de carbono, observando como todos contribuem para o problema e de que forma este afeta a saúde dos cidadãos e as suas vidas. Para isso, contou com a presença de diversos oradores, desde investigadores do projeto a representantes de entidades locais.

Posters de boas práticas


O sucesso deste evento só foi possível devido à forte participação dos cidadãos da CIRA. A eles e aos oradores o nosso muito obrigada!

Um especial agradecimento à Costa Nova pelas belíssimas peças oferecidas aos oradores.

Algumas fotografias do evento:

Workshop ‘Samen werken aan schone lucht in Amsterdam’, 23 januari, 9.30 -12.30 uur, GGD Amsterdam

Wilt u een schonere lucht in Amsterdam en tegelijk een fijnere en betere leefomgeving bij u in de buurt? Heeft u ideeën over hoe dat zou kunnen of moeten?

Dan willen wij u graag uitnodigen voor de bijeenkomst ‘Samen werken aan maatregelen voor schone lucht en een fijnere leefomgeving in Amsterdam’, die wij op 23 januari organiseren in het kader van het Europese luchtkwaliteit onderzoeksproject ClairCity (http://www.claircity.eu).

Vanuit je ervaring als Amsterdammer (geen voorbereiding of specifieke kennis nodig) vragen we om in discussie te gaan over concrete maatregelen voor schone lucht. Hoe streng moeten die maatregelen zijn? En wanneer zouden ze in moeten gaan? Samen met de andere deelnemers maakt u scenario’s voor een fijnere stad.

Met de resultaten uit de bijeenkomst gaan de modelleurs van ClairCity vervolgens aan het rekenen. Ze rekenen uit wat het effect is van de gekozen maatregelen op de luchtkwaliteit in Amsterdam. De scenario’s en hun effecten zullen vervolgens aan beleidsmakers in de stad worden voorgelegd.


Woensdag, 23 januari 2019


9:30 – 12:30 (ontvangst 9:15)


GGD, Nieuwe Achtergracht 100, Amsterdam

De workshop is gratis. Inschrijven kan door een mail te sturen naar claircity@trinomics.eu of te bellen naar 010 341 4592). Er is een beperkt aantal beschikbare plaatsen, schrijft u zich daarom zo snel mogelijk in.

Voor de workshop is geen voorbereiding of specifieke kennis nodig. Iedere mening telt mee! Aan het begin van de workshop geven we een korte presentatie over de huidige luchtkwaliteit en het beleid in Amsterdam en leggen we uit hoe we de scenario’s gaan maken.

Kent u meer mensen die geïnteresseerd zijn in een betere luchtkwaliteit en een betere leefomgeving in Amsterdam? Stuurt u dan deze uitnodiging door via email en/of sociale media (het evenement op Facebook vind je via deze link).

Met vriendelijke groet,

Het Amsterdam ClairCity team

Foto: vergelijkbare workshop in Bristol, Engeland

ClairCity annual conference 2018


The ClairCity annual conference 2018 took place in our partner city of Sosnowiec, Poland on 25th April 2018.

It was attended by a range of local, national and international organisations and interested participants, as well as our ClairCity team and External Advisory Board members. The day was split into four sections, covering different issues. Click on the links below to see the slides from each presenter. These links cover two of the four sessions from the day. A full selection of all presentations will be available shortly.

European and international experiences

The (re)emerging problem of solid fuel use and PM emissions in Bristol and the UK (Bristol City Council) Andy Edwards

Pro-environmental behavioural change: Role of personalised informational intervention (iSCAPE project) Muhammad Adnan

Integrated air pollution management in Delhi city (Indian Institute of Technology) Mukesh Khare Residential wood combustion in the Nordic area (NILU) Susana Lopez-Aparicio

ClairCity project presentations

The ClairCity process – bringing the evidence together & ClairCity Skylines app. Enda Hayes (NO GIFs)

GreenANTS app. Mirjam Fredriksen

Delphi process and citizen voice. Jim Longhurst

Modelling behaviour in heating and transport. Kris Vanherle


Our local contacts in Sosnowiec made this short report about the event.

Genova Mutual Learning Workshop

Si è svolto Martedì 27 Marzo 2018 presso la sede della Regione Liguria il Mutual learning workshop del progetto ClairCity. Il Workshop ha coinvolto i differenti portatori di interesse (stakeholders) coinvolti nelle problematiche e nelle politiche ambientali e della salute. Una trentina di partecipanti hanno condiviso le loro visioni sui fattori di rischio allo stato attuale e in scenari futuri a differente scala temporale (2020-2030-2050)

Genova Delphi Workshop

Si è svolto Giovedì 22 Febbraio un workshop del progetto ClairCity con un gruppo molto motivato di cittadini genovesi al fine di discutere i risultati del secondo questionario. In particolare l’attenzione è stata dedicata alle misure per ridurre l’inquinamento atmosferico e migliorare l’impronta di carbonio. Alcuni tavoli di lavoro hanno discusso sulle idee e sulle proposte che sono emerse dalle risposte ai questionari ed hanno fornito utili indicazioni da riportare ai decisori.

Mutual Learning Workshop for Bristol

Bristol’s mutual learning workshop was designed for different stakeholders who are engaged in environment, health issues and policies in the city. It took place in July 2017, and was aimed at developing routes to a “clean air”, healthy, zero-carbon Bristol by 2050 by understanding specific challenges and opportunities for organisations, and engaging them to identify actions, milestones and priorities.

Attendees included a range of organisations, from First Bus, community groups such as Ambition Lawrence Weston and Easton Energy Group, local councillors in South Gloucestershire and Bristol, Bristol Walking Alliance, Residents Against Dirty Energy (RADE), At-Bristol, local employers, Bristol Health Partnership and NHS representatives, energy experts, academics from UWE and the University of Bristol.  Though the business sector was underrepresented at the workshop, participants from this sector identified their strategies around increasing the efficiency of their fleets and reducing waste.

The keynote speaker presentations are available to watch on Youtube.

Overall the workshop had a positive atmosphere.  Participants were happy to be involved and mutually learn about and discuss air pollution, health and carbon reduction.  Feedback from participants was largely positive, highlighting in particular the opportunity to talk to people they wouldn’t normally talk to. A minority of feedback suggests there should have been a bigger focus on actions but the workshop was still felt to be positive from a “getting everyone in the same room” view point.

Discussion points

Each participant was asked to share their organisation’s current actions towards air quality and reducing carbon emissions, and to suggest their vision for a “clean air” healthy zero-carbon Bristol related to their organisation. Then participants identified challenges and barriers to change. The challenges and barriers they identified can broadly be categorised as: political; business/market; housing; citizen challenges; cultural; housing.

In the political category, many comments identified lack of government funding or government inaction as barriers along with “short-termism” and business as usual approaches. Challenges for citizens were noted around a lack of options in terms of the “school run”, flexible working hours and access to public transport.  In terms of culture, ignorance of evidence and acceptance and social expectations around the conflict between sustainability and current travel behaviours were raised. Transport challenges and barriers focussed on the lack of a quality alternative to car use and the inefficiencies of public transport.  For housing affordable and efficient housing for a growing population was highlighted. Business/market challenges identified the need to think about alternatives to government spending to pay for training and new technologies.

Actions and milestones

Actions, milestones and priorities were devised in four separate groups.  Group discussions led to different actions and different areas of focus:

One group developed a timeline from 2020 to 2050 focused on moving to a clean air Bristol by promoting and enabling electric vehicles, developing joint spatial plans for 2030 to 2040 and then focussing on the different types of social, political and planning action that would be needed.

A second group focussed more on the political, social and community changes needed over the time scale, prioritising increased community, bottom-up approaches, collaborative partnerships and a change to the electoral and democratic governance of the UK to proportional representation and devolution.

A third group focussed on the actions needed in the short term by the City Council such as reporting and funding a clean air zone, improving transport links to South Bristol, challenging the decision-making process of the council, changing the procurement process and making public transport more affordable.

The final group also focussed on planning policy locally, the need for a spatial plan to focus on air pollution, address diesel generation, a comprehensive bus strategy and Clean Air Zone and delivering a mechanism to raise investment.  They also considered the role of the housing stock and the need to make all homes energy efficient.


Overall the Bristol mutual learning workshop successfully engaged with a variety of stakeholders from different sectors and organisations.

In Bristol, clean air and air pollution are largely linked to the transport sector – both in people’s minds and in reality.  The need for better transport and infrastructure planning in Bristol is clearly identified and links to improved housing and better connectedness across the city.  Spatial plans need to be adequately supported by effective social planning that considers health impacts, and also requires political leadership and action.

The wide representation of civil and civil society organisations led to the identification of social and cultural barriers to change, but also opportunities and potential policy actions to increase bottom-up community and citizen engagement in local governance and decision making – something the ClairCity project aims to do.

A challenge of the workshop was supporting the groups to turn their attention to definite “actions” in the scenario session at the end. Though political short-termism was identified as a barrier by stakeholders, the groups’ pathways from 2020 to 2050 were largely short-term (apart from one group) when it came to setting actions and milestones beyond the next five years.

This highlights the difficulties scientists, policy makers, industry and civil/civic society organisations all have in visualising potential transformative actions that go beyond the systems already in place.  Future workshops could seek to address this by spending more time on pathway development and less on barriers.