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Clearing the Air in Leeds
Leeds City Council (UK) is leaving other municipalities in the dust by using a clearer, more strategic approach to reducing their air pollution.
The Natural Step in the UK (under the banner of Forum for the Future), in collaboration with consultants from the London-based engineering firm of Arup, recently delivered workshops to study the City’s new Air Quality Action Plan. While national regulations only require cities to reduce local levels of 7 common types of air pollution, this review presented a huge opportunity to broaden the conversation and take a more comprehensive approach.
The workshop brought together stakeholders from Council departments such as Transport and Spatial Planning, as well as the Environment Agency, Leeds University, two major supermarkets, and a local campaign group representing Stop Climate Chaos. The day was structured around how air quality can be addressed using each of the five levels of The Natural Step Framework.
Participants first mapped the pollutants, causes of pollutants, pathways and receptors in society and ecosystems, stakeholders, regulations, and so forth. The single biggest problem was identified as Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emissions from transport, although many other substances and sources were found to contribute to the City’s poor air quality. The workshop leaders also helped to highlight how the City’s air emissions affect soils in surrounding national parks and the international health implications of air pollution.
This more holistic view of air pollution enabled participants to develop a vision of success that was far more comprehensive than simply the regulation of seven particular substances. “Workshop participants developed a vision for future success that would go beyond transport and NOx and beyond the idea of ‘safe limits’ or acceptable levels of air pollution,” noted Tom Chambers of Forum for the Future.
“Overall the workshop was a success,” said Chambers. “Whilst national standards remain important, they can become part of a more holistic vision of working towards clean air in, and beyond, the city.” For more on Forum’s work, visit their website at http://www.forumforthefuture.org/.