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Working together to tackle air pollution – article by Ruth Duston


March 25, 2019

“I read with interest the news last week that City Hall has launched a pilot scheme to monitor air pollution levels in the capital. Under the scheme some 250 pupils from five primary schools across the capital will wear backpacks with in-built air quality sensors. The data collected by the sensors will be used by scientists to discover pollution hotspots and ultimately help children avoid particularly toxic routes to school.

This initiative echoes an innovative project we ran at the Northbank BID with King’s back in 2017 which saw local workers monitor air pollution levels on their preferred commutes to work. Since then, through our work as one of the capital’s first Business Low Emission Neighbourhoods, we have used the data gathered to create a series of Wellbeing Walks which encourage behaviour change by offering local workers healthier walking routes to work.

This project, alongside other things such as working with local businesses to reduce the number of vehicle deliveries across our footprint, is an important part of the solution to tackling air pollution in London. The trick will be rolling out these examples of best practice more widely in order to have a bigger impact.

The Mayor says this sort of ‘bold and innovative’ action is needed to tackle air pollution. And I would agree with him. I would also argue that what is vital is joined up working with the public and private sectors – sharing success stories and inspiring others to get involved.

While of course, action must be taken by Government to remove the worst polluting vehicles from our roads altogether, our work at the BID is demonstrating that relatively small interventions can have big, positive impacts.

To be most effective however, we must not work in silos or think air pollution is ultimately someone else’s problem. The best results will come from working together to improve air quality and helping people make better choices. A clear vision and bold action by Government backed up by on the ground behaviour change at the local level, led by pioneers in the private sector.

Businesses are very receptive to collaborating on initiatives that tackle air pollution – it matters to their staff and their customers. Let’s harness this commitment to the cause and ensure our collective efforts make a tangible difference to this thorny challenge for the capital – our health and the continued vibrancy of the capital depends on it.”

Written by Ruth Duston OBE OC, CEO of The Northbank BID