ClairCity: tackling air pollution through social innovation

Evidence shows that efforts to clean up vehicles have failed to deliver the predicted air quality improvements and CO2 emission reductions necessary to meet legal, health-based targets. Consequently, a more holistic approach is necessary to help us achieve cleaner, healthier air.  The ClairCity project aims to show how air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are not just the result of polluting technology, or of individual choices, but instead are closely linked to the ways in which we organise modern society.

Different cars, same traffic jams

For many years, air quality policy has assumed that clean air and carbon reductions could be largely achieved through technological measures. To date air quality management has created a world populated by chimneys and vehicles, analysed through forecasting and models built upon average usage characteristics and emission factors, and consisting of polluting machines and objects. This view gives very little consideration to the people and the social frameworks that comprise such a world. This results in human behaviour being left largely untouched by policy, in a state of Business As Usual (e.g. by introducing cleaner cars, but allowing traffic flows to continue increasing).

Therefore, despite great successes at the end of the last century, the process of cleaning up (particularly light duty) vehicles has now run in to problems. Failures to achieve anticipated real world reductions in emissions is leading to widespread exceedences of European Limit Values, and relatively new but highly polluting cars are being locked into our vehicle fleets for the next decade or more. It is becoming increasingly evident that we will need changes to both behaviour and lifestyles to achieve our social and environmental goals. This need is evident not just in terms of air pollution, but also co-benefits in terms of greenhouse gases, noise, public space and so forth.

Technical measures and new opportunities

Our review work has shown that the measures included in typical high-level air quality plans tend to be disproportionately technical in nature and aimed at tackling specific sectors, for instance passenger transport or delivery of goods, or specific industries. Even where air quality plans attempt to go beyond command-and-control measures and aim at changing citizens’ behaviour they are predominantly limited to infrastructural/service investments and subsidies to less polluting vehicles and domestic appliances.

There is evidence to suggest that there is an increasing interest shown by policy actors in the role of the public. However, to date there has been little air pollution specific work on which to provide support to policy in this area.  From academic literature, there are three core ways in which the public have been designated a role in relation to air quality management. These are:

1) As relatively passive receptors of pollution;

2) As recipients of information about pollution concentrations, based on which they will change their behaviour to reduce their exposure;

3) As approvers of public policy, for example through assessments of their willingness to pay for cleaner air.

In terms of policy, there will occasionally be specific behavioural interventions but these usually take individualistic approaches, often treating travel activities as a matter of open choice, without detailed consideration of social and structural factors that lie behind people’s everyday decisions. One of the few examples of policies with a broader vision is The Cleaner Air for Scotland plan in the UK. This document strongly emphasises the need to look beyond individual circumstances and choices and understand what determines people’s choices, including not just material barriers but also norms and expectations.

Learning from others

To support this shift in air quality management, we look towards related fields of policy and research that have already addressed some similar concerns. There has been considerable work on both the psychological and sociological understanding of behaviour in the areas of transport and energy consumption, however there is little direct involvement of air quality management processes with the basic evidence base and theoretical approaches that have been developed there. Where behavioural interventions have been taken up into air quality management plans, this tends to have been done by simply selecting a set of off-the-shelf measures rather than a greater involvement and understanding of the social science evidence and research behind it.

Therefore the aim of ClairCity is to support air quality policy and management in incorporating a broader social science approach. We hope to show how new thinking about the role of people in relation to air pollution can change the options for action for cities and policy makers. As a project, we will demonstrate the practical applicability of this holistic approach by putting citizens at the centre of air quality management in our six pilot cities and regions.

Tim Chatterton, Laura De Vito, Eva Csobod, Peter Szuppinger and Gabor Heves

This is an edited extract from the ClairCity report “Review of Social Science in Air Quality and Carbon Management” which will be publicly available in mid-2018.

Bristol’s air pollution data in more detail

This collection of links may be useful for people trying to find out more about the sources of different statistics and to understand more about the air pollution problem in Bristol. The list isn’t exhaustive, but identifies some of the most up-to-date sources of information for the current situation in Bristol and plans for the future.

If you think there is an important document missing that would help others to understand more about air pollution in Bristol, feel free to let us know. In sharing these links ClairCity is not trying to promote or endorse findings or conclusions from any specific parties.

Introduction to air pollution in Bristol

Dr Jo Barnes presented an introduction to air quality in Bristol at the Clean Air for Bristol event in July 2018. She covered the background information for the city, key statistics and conclusions for air quality in the city. This is a pdf version of the presentation. Among other useful resources and links, it includes:

  • A map showing the proportion of deaths attributable to air pollution (PM2.5 and NO2) in each ward in Bristol.
  • A map showing car ownership in each ward in Bristol
  • Overview of health impacts and sources of air pollution in Bristol.

Up-to-date air quality data

Did you know that hourly updates of Bristol’s air quality are available? This is collected and shared by the council.

Alongside the council’s data, the national Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) also collect air pollution data in Bristol. They run a site in St Pauls and another near Temple Meads.

Council reports and plans

In February 2017 the council published a commissioned report on “Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Bristol.”

  • This report is the source of the “300 deaths per year” (or five per week) statistic.
  • The report includes maps showing attributable deaths per ward.

In June 2017 the council published a document on the Clean Air Action Plan and Clean Air Zone feasibility study for Bristol. The document is available in the minutes of the Council meeting (see p.78-145).

  • This includes the calculation that 40% of NOx in central Bristol is from diesel cars.
  • Information on the scope of the study as it was initially framed, and maps of the alternative Clean Air Zone proposals.

Related topics and data

UK research on commuting and travel

Two recent studies have shed light on the activities and experiences of drivers and commuters in the UK, both published by research groups at our partner, UWE Bristol.

Commuting is worse than pay cut

Research with over 26,000 employees across the UK found that all else being equal, an additional 20 minutes of commuting each working day is equivalent to a 19% annual pay cut when it comes to measuring how satisfied people say they are with their jobs. At the same time, the average commuting time per day in England has risen from 48 minutes to 60 minutes over the past 20 years, with one in seven commuters now spending at least two hours a day travelling to and from work.

Principal Investigator, Dr Kiron Chatterjee, an Associate Professor in Travel Behaviour at UWE Bristol, said: “While longer commute times were found to reduce job satisfaction, it is also clear that people take on longer commutes partly to increase their earnings, which in turn improves job satisfaction. This raises interesting questions over whether the additional income associated with longer commutes fully compensates for the negative aspects of the journey to work.”

Other findings from the 18-month study include:

• Those who walk or cycle to work do not report reductions in leisure time satisfaction in the same way as other commuters, even with the same duration of commute.

• Bus commuters feel the negative impacts of longer commute times more strongly than users of other modes of transport.

• Longer duration commutes by rail are associated with less strain than shorter commutes by rail.

• Longer commute times reduce women’s job satisfaction more than that of men’s.

For more information see the press release.

Who is stuck in traffic?

New evidence has shown that areas containing vehicles responsible for emitting the most air pollution (on both a per kilometre basis and over a year due to the distance they have driven) tend to be licensed at locations outside the most-populous, relatively-deprived urban areas hardest hit by harmful emissions.

Conversely, the most polluted areas tend to contain older but cleaner cars. Where older vehicles are registered in towns and cities they are likely to be driven less far and therefore produce, overall, relatively small amounts of NOx, PM and CO2. The research presented in the report highlights that the amount that vehicles are used tends to be considerably more important in determining the annual emissions they generate than their per kilometre emissions.

This evidence has implications for the effectiveness of car scrappage schemes in cities – if those causing most pollution are not located in the city then a scrappage scheme based on city limits will have a limited impact.

ClairCity academic Tim Chatterton was a co-author on this research, undertaken for the RAC Foundation. See the press release and the full report is available to download.

2017 Annual Conference presentations

The ClairCity annual conference took place in Szentendre, Hungary on 24th May 2017. We were fantastically hosted by our consortium partners REC (Regional Environment Center) with attendees including a range of project staff, external advisory board members, ClairCity associates and interested representatives from further organisations.

The event was an opportunity to hear the experiences of experts from across the themes of interest of the ClairCity project. This year, there was a focus on work relating to innovative methods of communicating science, engaging the public and explaining air pollution and climate change. On this page you will find:

  1. Photos from the event
  2. Links to all slides from the public part of the conference

ClairCity annual conference Wednesday 24th May 2017

Air quality, carbon management and public health challenges in European cities – Dorota Jarosinska, WHO Europe.
1. Dorota Jarosinska PDF

1. Dorota Jarosinska powerpoint

Climate change, health and communication – Anna Paldy, Former Deputy Head of the Hungarian Environment and Health Research National Institute
2. Anna Paldy PDF

2. Anna Paldy powerpoint

An introduction to ClairCity – Enda Hayes, ClairCity Technical Director, UWE Bristol
3. Enda Hayes PDF

3. Enda Hayes powerpoint

Experiences of public involvement in sustainable urban mobility planning – Andras Ekes, Mobilissimus Kft., Hungary
4. Ekes Andras PDF

4. EkesAndras powerpoint

Citizens and their role in air quality and climate: the ClairCity approach – Tim Chatterton, ClairCity, UWE Bristol
5. Tim Chatterton PDF

5. Tim Chatterton powerpoint

Changing behaviour in the energy sector – Sea Rotmann, Director, Sustainable Energy Advice Ltd
6. Sea Rotmann PDF

The inclusion of citizens into ClairCity data analysis: Amsterdam case study – Trond Husby, ClairCity, PBL
7. Trond Husby PDF

Citizen and stakeholder engagement in the CEE region – Sandor Nagy, Vice Mayor for Urban Development of the CIVITAS programme
8. Nagy Sandor powerpoint

8. Nagy Sandor PDF

How to engage the public in science: experience of a science communication centre – Chris Dunford, At-Bristol Science Centre
9. Chris Dunford PDF

Multiple mechanisms of engagement for air quality, carbon and health: the ClairCity approach – Eva Csobod, ClairCity, REC
10. Eva Csobod PDF

10. Eva Csobod powerpoint

Using immersive gaming and apps to influence citizens: Introducing the ClairCity game and app – Mirjam Fredriksen, ClairCity, NILU and Andy King, ClairCity, UWE Bristol
11. Andy King and Mirjam Fredriksen PDF

11. Andy King and Mirjam Fredriksen powerpoint

Global perspectives on air quality – Roseanne Diab, Academy of Science for South Africa
(no slides)

Synergies with the European Mobility Week Campaign – Jerome Simpson, REC
12. Jerome Simpson

12. Jerome Simpson

Future scanning: air quality, climate change and health in 2050 and beyond – James Longhurst, UWE Bristol
13. Jim Longhurst

13. Jim Longhurst

For any further information about the event, please use our contact page to get in touch.

ClairCity Conference 2017

The first ClairCity annual conference took place in Szentendre, Hungary on 24th May 2017. We were fantastically hosted by our consortium partners REC (Regional Environment Center) with attendees including a range of project staff, external advisory board members, ClairCity associates and interested representatives from further organisations.

The event was an opportunity to hear the experiences of experts from across the themes of interest of the ClairCity project. This year, there was a focus on work relating to innovative methods of communicating science, engaging the public and explaining air pollution and climate change. On this page you will find:

  • Photos from the event
  • Links to all slides from the public part of the conference

ClairCity annual conference Wednesday 24th May 2017

Air quality, carbon management and public health challenges in European cities – Dorota Jarosinska, WHO Europe.
1. Dorota Jarosinska PDF

1. Dorota Jarosinska powerpoint

Climate change, health and communication – Anna Paldy, Former Deputy Head of the Hungarian Environment and Health Research National Institute
2. Anna Paldy PDF

2. Anna Paldy powerpoint

An introduction to ClairCity – Enda Hayes, ClairCity Technical Director, UWE Bristol
3. Enda Hayes PDF

3. Enda Hayes powerpoint

Experiences of public involvement in sustainable urban mobility planning – Andras Ekes, Mobilissimus Kft., Hungary
4. Ekes Andras PDF

4. EkesAndras powerpoint

Citizens and their role in air quality and climate: the ClairCity approach – Tim Chatterton, ClairCity, UWE Bristol
5. Tim Chatterton PDF

5. Tim Chatterton powerpoint

Changing behaviour in the energy sector – Sea Rotmann, Director, Sustainable Energy Advice Ltd
6. Sea Rotmann PDF

The inclusion of citizens into ClairCity data analysis: Amsterdam case study – Trond Husby, ClairCity, PBL
7. Trond Husby PDF

Citizen and stakeholder engagement in the CEE region – Sandor Nagy, Vice Mayor for Urban Development of the CIVITAS programme
8. Nagy Sandor powerpoint

8. Nagy Sandor PDF

How to engage the public in science: experience of a science communication centre – Chris Dunford, At-Bristol Science Centre
9. Chris Dunford PDF

Practical experiences of citizen engagement – Anna Dworakowska, Alarm Smogowy
10. Anna Dworakowska powerpoint

10. Anna Dworakowska PDF

Multiple mechanisms of engagement for air quality, carbon and health: the ClairCity approach – Eva Csobod, ClairCity, REC
11. Eva Csobod PDF

11. Eva Csobod powerpoint

Using immersive gaming and apps to influence citizens: Introducing the ClairCity game and app – Mirjam Fredriksen, ClairCity, NILU and Andy King, ClairCity, UWE Bristol
12. Andy King and Mirjam Fredriksen PDF

12. Andy King and Mirjam Fredriksen powerpoint

Global perspectives on air quality – Roseanne Diab, Academy of Science for South Africa
(no slides)

Synergies with the European Mobility Week Campaign – Jerome Simpson, REC
13. Jerome Simpson

13. Jerome Simpson

Future scanning: air quality, climate change and health in 2050 and beyond – James Longhurst, UWE Bristol
14. Jim Longhurst

14. Jim Longhurst

For any further information about the event, please use our contact page to get in touch.