As summer draws to a close and countries are starting to see glimmers of normalcy, many cities are questioning the next move for tackling air quality issues. Now is not the time to be putting air quality plans on hold. During this pandemic, clean air is a life or death matter and an antidote for healing as countries emerge from the various states of quarantine mandated over the last six months.
In recent months, the same headline continues to repeat itself, stating toxic or polluted air exacerbates the effects and transmission of COVID-19. So, why are we not focusing more intently on a cleaner and greener future? Experts are anticipating a second wave of the virus to emerge as cooler temperatures arrive. Let us not repeat history – the Spanish Flu of 1918 was much worse during the second wave. “From September through November of 1918, the death rate from the Spanish flu skyrocketed. In the United States alone, 195,000 Americans died from the Spanish flu in just the month of October”. A more concerted effort is needed to curb emissions to lessen the deadly effects of the virus.
Cities such as Leeds are concerned that all the effort put into improving air quality over the years is going to be all for naught if active measures are not taken to monitor vehicle emissions and improve upon regulations. Additionally, the West Leeds Dispatch reports that “the GMB Union says taxi drivers have been forced to spend between £20,000 and £70,000 on new vehicles and its members are becoming increasingly angry and concerned.” Many drivers are wondering why they are spending money and going into debt on upgrades when the city is holding back implementing regulatory measures.
In Scotland, the Government is in hot water because they are choosing to delay the implementation of their low emission zones until 2022. However, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson states in The Herald, “the Scottish Government and members of the Low Emission Zone leadership group are committed to introducing LEZs across Scotland’s four biggest cities as quickly as possible. LEZs are key to improving air quality, protecting public health, and supporting Scotland’s wider climate change ambitions by encouraging more sustainable transport options.”
Although the Transport Secretary is supportive of the LEZs moving forward as quickly as possible, the major delay is causing outrage among environmental groups. “Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was ‘gravely concerned’ over the announcement. Research has shown around 2,500 people in Scotland die each year from air pollution, and there is growing evidence linking high levels of pollution and vulnerability to the coronavirus”.
On the other hand, Wales is making great strides in its Air Quality Management plans by making a shift to a more proactive method. A recent TransportXtra article reports that “the [Welsh] Government says the current LAQM arrangements ‘operate reactively, requiring actions where a problem area has already been identified as nearing or exceeding legal limits.’ It wants the system to be ‘preventative, proactive and health-focused.’”
The keywords “proactive” and “progressive” make appearances again when Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc of Toulouse speaks about the ZFE in an Actu article. To roughly translate his quote into English, he states, “As regards the exclusion of the most polluting vehicles from this area, I believe that we must adopt a progressive strategy. The establishment of the ZFE should not be synonymous with brutality”.
Other progressively thinking cities are Bristol and Oxford. Bristol is looking at alternatives to traditional clean air zones by implementing new technologies and updated traffic patterns, while Oxford is setting ambitious air quality targets to be met by 2025. Oxford intends to meet a local annual mean NO2 of 30µg/m3. The council fears that the target is a stretch, but achievable if the right measures are put into place.
The most effective way for a city to make its Low Emission Zones and Air Quality Plans proactive and progressive is to implement a continuous monitoring scheme using advanced remote sensing technology. Installing a network of EDAR systems is an infallible way to accelerate any air pollution mitigation plan. Cities need to step into the 21st century and start using the incredible technologies available to them to get ahead of the curve.
Please reach out if you want to know more about how EDAR can help your city be more progressive and proactive in reaching the next level of emissions detection by using this innovative and highly effective technology.