Pollution levels in many of Britain’s big towns and cities are consistently breaching global safety limits, according to a new report published by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and Lancet Countdown collaboration.
The research, backed by 26 groups including the RCP, also looks into the global impacts of climate change on the public, and highlights how the UK government is failing to take suitable action to mitigate the effects. Air pollution, The Lancet warns, is causing 40,000 premature deaths and six million sick days, while 800 schools in London, and many of the capital’s hospitals, also sit in highly polluted areas. Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham were also rated as heavily polluted in the study, while cities such as Eastbourne and Oxford breach World Health Organisation limits.
The air pollution problem was notorious in the 1950s through smog generated by coal-fired power stations but the effects of diesel vehicles has been overlooked until recently. Government actions encouraging the purchase of diesel vehicles alongside pollution-related scandals, such as Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’, have exacerbated the issue in major cities while drawing attention to the dangers of increasing levels of NOx and particulate matter in the air we breathe.
The research highlights the impacts that increased government spending could have on air quality, due to the links between transport choice, air quality and poverty, thereby helping to tackle health inequalities.
The Government’s own technical paper states that charges in Clean Air Zones, where older, more polluting vehicles have to pay to enter, are the only way to bring down pollution levels to legal limits, and now most senior doctors in the country believe that these areas must be expanded. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has introduced extra charges within the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zones in an attempt to lower the levels of pollutants, yet as a blunt charging system offers little to change behaviours.
Tantalum’s Matthew Pencharz says, “Tantalum understand the Government’s concerns about the effect Clean Air Zones will have on drivers, who were incentivised to switch to diesel, but smart technology such as Tantalum’s Air.Car product can charge people on the actual environmental impact of their journey. This smart and fair approach would give power to drivers to reduce their pollution emissions, which can be halved, through better driving and therefore pay a lower amount. Such a smart system would also capture co-benefits such as incentivising calmer driving, making the roads safer.”
Data from these processes can be used to charge individual vehicles on their actual pollution, thereby creating a fair charging system that can be fluidly implemented to reduce emissions in critical areas like hospitals and schools.
Further analysis of such data could offer City Planners adequate evidence to make significant and lasting changes to more complex City restrictions, thereby helping the battle against pollution.