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

May newsletter 2020: 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 the final edition here.

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.

December Newsletter 2019: ClairCity Contributes

The latest edition of our newsletter is out now! In this penultimate newsletter, we share our latest findings, celebrate two successes from our colleagues in Aveiro and Sosnowiec, and give you the scoop on the latest air quality news. Read this edition here.

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.

Genova Policy workshop

25 people partecipated at the Policy Workshop, 11 from Liguria Region (different departments: environment, infrastructure, health), 1 from IRE (company of the Region that deals with infrastructures, building renovation and energy), 3 from ARPAL (Environment Agency of Liguria region), 1 from Western Ligurian Sea Port Authority (which includes Genoa, Savona and Vado Ligure ports), 3 from Genoa Municipality, 1 from AMIU (Multiservice and urban hygiene company) and 5 from the staff of ClairCity project (3 from Liguria region, 2 from Techne Consulting). The high number of participants expresses the complexity of the policies for the city of Genoa concerning road transportation, mobility, ports, energy, strategic infrastructure of national and European importance. 

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.