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.

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/


Aveiro Region Congress 2019: ClairCity Regional Day

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

Four issues in particular were on the agenda:

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations:

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

Comments and suggestions:

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

ClairCity conference agenda released

Our first annual conference will take place in Szentendre, one hour from Budapest, Hungary on 24th May 2017. We warmly welcome anyone who is interested in air pollution, citizen engagement, carbon emissions and the future of our cities. The conference is free to attend, and individuals, NGOs, local organisations, and representatives of local, national or international authorities are all be welcome to join us.

Download our draft agenda: ClairCity Conference 24 May 2017 Szentendre draft agenda Feb 2017
Download our registration form: Registration form ClairCity conference 22-24 May 2017

Our conference theme for 2017 is “Tackling urban air quality: citizen-led approaches.” We have a range of speakers from the ClairCity project, as well as our Advisory Panel and external invited guests. Over the course of the day, we will consider the issues of air quality and how these relate to climate change and public health. In this first conference, we are focusing our attention on the practical implications of current research on behavioural change related to environmental and social issues, and public engagement. Through the lectures and time allocated to discussion and response, this conference is a space to deliberate the future vision for air quality, climate change and public health. Please see our draft agenda for more details.

Szentendre is a beautiful town in Hungary, easily accessible from Budapest just one hour away. On the registration form you will find hotel and logistical information.

We look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to our conference. If you have any questions or would like to register for the conference, please use the registration form attached and contact epeto@rec.org