Report: The Northern Air Quality Conference 2022

Last week, the Air Quality News team hosted the Northern Air Quality Conference at The Midland, Manchester.

The event brought together air quality professionals, policy makers, academics and campaigners to celebrate 10 years of Air Quality News and discuss what the future holds for our air.

Our host for the day was Cllr Beverley Nielsen, who represents Worcestershire County and Malvern Hills District Councils and works as an Associate Professor at Birmingham City University. She gave a moving address opening the conference, calling on the delegates to ‘dare, share and care’ to tackle toxic air.

The presentations were kicked off by Polly Billington, Chief Executive of UK100, who gave the delegates a preview of UK100’s upcoming report on Clean Air Net Zero (CANZ).

She argued that local authorities should ‘make sure they use powers in alignment’ to ensure both climate change and air pollution can be tackled simultaneously.

We were then joined by Dr Chris Rushton, a researcher at the University of Leeds, who introduced us to the EU-wide CARES project, which aims to overcome legal and technical challenges to identify the small number of vehicles that contribute disproportionately to air pollution on our roads.

He opened delegates eyes to the problem of tampered SCR emulators, which led to 20 to 27% of high emitting Euro 5 and 6 vehicles in his research.

Our panel discussion, chaired by Cllr Beverley Nielsen, saw representatives of Bradford and Liverpool Councils compare their experience of planning Clean Air Zones, alongside our event sponsor Vortex.

Sally Jones of Bradford Council told us that the Bradford CAZ is imminent, while Paul Farrell of Liverpool Council told us it is ‘increasingly unlikely’ that the city will get its own Clean Air Zone.

While Bradford decided that implementing a CAZ would be the most effective way of becoming compliant with air quality standards, Liverpool said that due to struggling business and high levels of deprivation, the public and local businesses are ‘very against’ more costs.

After lunch, we were joined live from the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva by Dr Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment.

She gave an inspirational talk on the importance of linking climate change and air pollution to solve both issues, and the need for health professionals to promote the transition to renewables and mobilise to tackle environment risks to health.

She said it would be her ‘dream’ to see messages on petrol stations saying, “gas kills you”, like with smoking.

She promoted a one health approach, where animal, human and environmental health are seen as linked, and argued that although we can never have enough scientific evidence, we have more than enough to justify action.

‘When I see young people on the street demonstrating and telling us we are wrong it makes me very sad,’ she told the audience.

Bringing much needed optimism amid the current news cycle, Imogen Martineau, Portfolio Manager for the UK at Clean Air Fund, explained why it is necessary, achievable and affordable to reach the World Health Organization interim PM2.5 target of 10 µg/m3 by 2030, instead of by 2040 as the government proposes.

She was followed by Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of Asthma + Lung UK, who explained the state of lung health in the UK and how community action can help to address air pollution issues at a local level.

‘We have the worst lung health in terms of mortality in Western Europe,’ she told the delegates.

The day was brought to a close by Professor Laurence Jones, who introduced the newly launched RECLAIM+ network, which aims to help local authorities use blue and green infrastructure to tackle air pollution and sustainability issues.

If you are interested in attending our next conference, register your interest here for early access to delegate booking.

Photos by Martin Guttridge-Hewitt


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