Defra renews Ricardo-AEA air pollution monitoring deal

Ricardo-AEA has been awarded a three-year contract to provide quality assurance and quality control services for the UK government’s largest air quality monitoring network — the Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN).

Defra's Nobel House headquarters in London

Defra’s Nobel House headquarters in London

The consultancy has already held the contract for the past seven years, but announced yesterday (June 15) that it had secured another three-year deal with immediate effect from Defra.

It means Ricardo-AEA will undertake quality control and assurance of the data acquired through the AURN network, although operation of the network itself is contracted to another firm — testing and inspections services provider Bureau Veritas.

Data produced by the AURN network helps the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to fulfil its statutory European Union reporting requirements, as well as supporting air quality research and policy development.

The network has been delivering air quality data since the 1970s and comprises 149 monitoring stations across the UK, producing 5.5 million measurements every year.

Automatic air quality monitoring stations in the AURN network provide hourly information on the likes of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and particles/particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5).

Monitoring data showing current pollution levels at AURN sites is available to view on the Defra UK Air website, which is used by a variety of stakeholders, including vulnerable members of the public, and “underpins policy made at both local and national level”, according to Ricardo-AEA.

Ricardo-AEA is also responsible for managing the Defra UK Air website, which was hacked by an Islamist political group earlier this year, leaving the website and its information inaccessible for more than five weeks (see story).

Sean Christiansen, Ricardo-AEA’s practice director for air quality and environment, said: “We look forward to supporting Defra over the next three years through the provision of accurate and reliable measurements of air pollutants across the UK.

“Ricardo-AEA has an outstanding track record in the provision of air monitoring network services to governments. This contract award reinforces Ricardo-AEA’s position as Europe’s premier air quality consultancy.”

Ricardo-AEA appointments

Alongside the contract win, Ricardo-AEA also announced the recruitment of four new environmental policy and sustainability experts to its air quality team, including Dr David Carslaw, who has left King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group to join the consultancy.

Dr Carslaw hit national headlines last year when comments he made in an interview with the Sunday Times suggested that Oxford Street’s NO2 levels were the “highest in the world in terms of both hourly and annual mean,” prompting the Mayor of London to vociferously dispute the claim (see story). He is also a member of the UK’s Air Quality Expert Group.

Also appointed to the Ricardo-AEA air quality team is Ben Grebot, who has more than 12 years’ experience delivering high profile projects for national governments, the European Commission and industry in the fields of air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, chemicals, agriculture and water policy.

He joins from consultants Amec Foster Wheeler where he headed-up the environmental policy and economics team. Prior to this he worked in the Air Quality Division at Defra.

Betty Ng, who has more than 20 years’ experience delivering international environmental projects in sectors such as oil and gas, power, chemicals, transport, industrial and commercial development, has also joined Ricardo-AEA. Her previous roles have included technical director of ERM’s Hong Kong office and lead for the UK Environment Agency’s air quality modelling and assessment unit.

In addition, air quality and climate change policy specialist Tim Scarbrough, has been appointed to the team, bringing experience of working with the UK government and the European Commission on a range of environmental policy development, notably in support of the industrial emissions and transport sectors. He has previously held consulting roles at ICF International and Amec.

Ricardo-AEA managing director, Robert Bell, commented:

“Our UK and International client base has expanded rapidly in the last 18 months. The experience that Ben, David, Betty and Tim bring to Ricardo-AEA complements the capabilities of our existing team, ensuring that our clients around the world continue to have access to the world leading expertise that they have grown to expect from us.”


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