Social justice, batteries, political pressure: 2022 National Air Quality Conference Highlights

Last week we hosted the 2022 National Air Quality Conference at Lords in London, welcoming the great and good from environmental science, politics and technology. Here are the highlights.  

On Wednesday 9th November air quality professionals from across the UK and beyond descended on the home of English cricket for a meeting of minds aimed at supporting the struggle for clean air. To say the event was a success would be an understatement. 

Our day began with opening remarks from host Cllr Beverley Nielsen, Associate Director at the Institute for Design, Economic Acceleration & Sustainability (IDEAS) at Birmingham City University. Outlining the vital nature of the event itself, and reiterating the enormous task we face trying to bring air pollution back down to acceptable and safe levels, it was an early serving of food for thought. 

Next, Phillip Glanville, the Mayor of Hackney, presented a strong case in support of his reputation as one of the most environmentally progressive local authority leaders. Among the top line takeaways were the planting of 5,000 street trees, major extensions of school street schemes, and local power generation to fuel EV charging infrastructure.

Giving some idea of the challenges Hackney authorities face, we learnt that some 40% of traffic responsible for emissions in the area does not start or finish journeys within the borough, and therefore add nothing to the local economy despite contributing significantly to the dirty air. 

Following our recent articles on the disproportionate impact of air pollution on minority groups, we were thrilled to welcome Kate Langford to the lectern, Programme Director at Impact for Urban Health, who expounded on how non-white and lower income communities were facing the brunt of the air quality crisis.

That’s despite the fact those demographics contribute the least pollutants to the atmosphere, with the lowest 25% of earners accounting for 85% of those most severely effected by poor air quality. The morning session then finished with a panel discussion dealing with a number of issues, including where local authorities can find guidance and assistance on tech, regulatory requirements and funding for air pollution and air quality schemes. 

Following a fantastic lunch, we returned with Professor Catherine Noakes of the University of Leeds making the case for property developments to take into account good ventilation and the role design plays in improving indoor air quality. This included some big lessons from the pandemic. 

Christina Caderato, Director of Transport Strategy at Transport for London (TfL), then outlined the significant progress made in reducing air pollution across the UK capital. Predictions were also made on the impact of extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone to cover all vehicles within the London area. 

Later, Labour MP for Swansea West, Geraint Davis was a real highlight of the show. His off-the-cuff speech aimed and fired criticism at all sides of the party political spectrum, making it clear that Brexit has compounded the obstacles to improving the UK’s environmental record and made major infrastructure projects harder to fund. He also emphasised the need to continue lobbying for positive policy changes at every opportunity. 

Our final presentation of the day handed the reins to Cllr Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Health and Transport at Oxford City Council, who explained how new designs for EV battery charge infrastructure and a benchmark-setting zero emission zone reflect an urban area that is striving to set national standards for traffic and emissions reductions. 

In between the talks delegates were free to engage with 13 exhibiting companies and organisations leading the way in air quality measurement equipment and other technologies. These included Acoem, Airly, Alphasense, Bosch, Cambustion, Earthsense, EEMC Monitors, Evotech, Gramm Barriers, Healthy Air Tech, Horiba, Liveable Cities, Turnkey Instruments, and Yunex Traffic, in addition to conference partner Vortex IoT. 

Our final event of the year, we want to hear your thoughts on speakers and subjects we should address next year. Email to make recommendations and suggestions. 

Images: (C) Alex Deverill






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