Not since the Clean Air Acts of the 1950s has the imperative to change the way we dump our waste into the air been so urgent. These days it is the invisible gases CO2, NO2 that are hard to measure and quantify but the impacts are starting to be felt further down the line: climate change and the urban heat island effect, increases in respiratory and other health problems related to air quality.
All these have a financial as well as social cost and the arguments for doing something about them are irrefutable. We now include air quality as a measure of the attractiveness of cities worldwide. How will we hold our cities to account over air quality in a post-Brexit Britain? We need to empower communities around locations such as schools to create pressure for action. Transport has become an obvious target for action: more active travel, less private car journeys, reduction of diesel engines and replacement with low emission technologies. New models in the sharing economy sound good, but, for example, private diesel vans still compete for delivery business in large numbers on our streets. Do we need to change the financial model – or at least our online shopping habits?
Buildings are often forgotten as one of the major sources of CO2 in our cities – we have covered this in previous City Conversations, notably A Breath of Fresh Air. What we learned is that the same air quality issues can arise inside buildings as they do outside if we don’t look at them as part of the bigger picture. To discuss these issues, we have invited a panel of experts to help us define what we should be doing as professionals and citizens to tackle these problems in a post-Brexit world.
- Rachel Huxley, director of Knowledge and Learning, C40Cities Climate Leadership Group
- Jo Barnes, University of the West of England, Air Quality Management Resource Centre
- Lucy Wood, director, Barton Willmore
- Tom Parkes, sustainability officer, London Borough of Camden.
Chair: Duncan Price, Buro Happold Engineering
City Conversations is a series of informative thought-leadership discussions around the big issues that are changing our cities – growth, technology, resource efficiency and climate change. The conversations address not only the new and changing infrastructure of cities but also how these are brought about and their impact on the lifestyle and wellbeing of citizens. They are produced by The Happold Foundation and ngenuity with support from The Built Environment Trust.