On the day that the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is launched here in London this post looks at how the air in London is being monitored and how you can add an app to your phone to check your local environment on a day-to-day basis. The ULEZ will supersede the T-charge and create stricter emissions standards for diesel vehicles, 24 hours, 7 days a week.
The Mayor for London states that the introduction of the ULEZ will help reduce exhaust NOx and PM emissions, helping to improve air quality and making central London a safer and more pleasant place to live, work and visit. It is hoped that the positive effects will be especially beneficial to the young, older people and those who have respiratory problems, as well as residents of high pollution areas.
Londonair is the website of the London Air Quality Network (LAQN), and shows air pollution in London and south east England. The website provides information for the public, for policy users, and for scientists and was developed was formed in 1993 to coordinate and improve air pollution monitoring in London. The network provides independent scientific measurements and assessment. Establishing and running a monitoring site requires a large investment, and it is not possible to put monitoring everywhere, so maps and models have been developed to predict the pollution levels in between. London Air is available as mobile apps for both iPhone and android operating systems.
Is air pollution worse in London?
London suffers from traffic related pollution in a similar way to most UK cities, but the sheer size of the city, along with a dense road network and high buildings, means that central London tends to be one of the most polluted places in the UK. It is currently the main area failing to comply with the legally binding limits set by the EU. Pollution can build up in London when it becomes trapped between buildings,or in the local area more generally, especially during still weather.
Ozone pollution in spring and summer can also be a problem, but normally in London suburbs rather than the centre, and the highest levels in the UK are found in rural areas. Ozone is often higher in the south-east compared with the rest of the UK.
Within Europe London is the largest city, but we have less pollution than some EU cities because we are on the western edge of the continent and often receive fresh air from the Atlantic. From a global perspective, research from the World Bank shows that air pollution is a major health hazard in developing countries.
Presented by Chris Baines, President of the Thames Estuary Partnership, and with an introduction by Sir David Attenborough, ‘The Living Thames‘ film is an odyssey along the river as it meanders through London and flows out to sea, exploring its ever-changing ecology. The Thames is Britain’s most famous river. Nevertheless, many people don’t know very much about it. For millions who see it every day, it’s a mystery.
Sixty years ago the Thames was severely polluted. Many people still see it as dead and dirty. The reality, however, is completely different. In recent decades, thanks to the dedicated work of many, the Thames has made a dramatic recovery to become one of the cleanest inner-city rivers in Europe.
During his journey, from Teddington at the upper tidal reach to the sea, Chris meets many people who tell him more and more about just how much life there is, in and around the Thames. The film want to open people’s eyes to how truly remarkable the tidal Thames is, and just how crucial it is for connectivity, biodiversity, wildlife and migrating species.
The Thames Estuary Partnership’s film has been shortlisted in the finals of the Charity Film Awards and the winners will be announced on Friday 26 April. One of the prizes is the People’s Choice Award, which goes to the finalist with the most votes and it would be great if you could circulate the details and encourage voting. This, clearly, will help to raise the profile of water issues and the value of partnership working and integrated environmental management. Members of the public can vote for the film here: https://www.charityfilmawards.com/videos/the-living-thames
Construction of Europe’s first ever ‘smart canal’ scheme has started in Scotland using the 250-year-old Forth & Clyde Canal and 21st century technology to mitigate flood risk as well as enable massive regeneration in Glasgow. This is one of 29 different projects which are being rolled out across Scotland under the umbrella of ‘Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City’ which is a collaborative innovation across Scotland’s cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, and Stirling. By working together the seven cities have bought into a vision to make cities more attractive, liveable and resilient through data and digital technology.
Part of the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System, this “smart” project will help to create a ‘sponge city’ for North Glasgow – passively absorbing, cleaning and using rainfall intelligently and will help manage the impact of climate change on the sewer network.
Advanced warning of heavy rainfall (of which Glasgow has rather alot!!) will automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create capacity for surface water run-off. Before periods of heavy rain, canal water will be moved safely through a network of newly created urban spaces – from sustainable urban drainage ponds to granite channels – that absorb and manage water in a controlled way, creating space for surface water run-off.
This scheme will unlock 110 hectares across the north of the city for investment, regeneration and development and will see the Forth & Clyde Canal connected to five new sites over the next 10-15 years, including Sighthill, Hamiltonhill, Ruchill Hospital, Cowlairs and Dundashill.
“By unlocking the inherent value of Glasgow’s Canal and diversifying how we use this publicly-owned heritage asset, we are ensuring it continues to deliver for local people 250 years after it was first built.
”Creating a dynamic urban canal which uses smart technology to move water safely about the city will not only reduce the flood risk impact of climate change, but act as a catalyst for new investment, jobs, homes and businesses in North Glasgow as well as help to create one of the city’s top tourist destinations.”
Catherine Topley, CEO at Scottish Canals
Find out more about postgraduate Landscape studies at Kingston University by attending a Postgraduate Drop-in Evening giving you the opportunity for you to talk to staff about postgraduate study.
Our next Postgraduate Drop-in Evenings will take place on:
Wednesday 14 November 2018, 5.00 – 7.00pm – Booking open
You will have the chance to:
- have one-to-one conversations with academic staff to help you choose the course that is right for you
- ask any questions you may have about the application and enrolment process;
receive advice on finance, support services, careers and accommodation
- view our learning facilities and resources.
Who are the Postgraduate Drop-in Evenings suitable for?
We recommend this event if you are thinking of applying for a postgraduate course at Kingston University, whether you already know which subject you would like to study or are still deciding.
If you’ve already applied for a course, you are also welcome to come along and meet academic staff and find out more about your course.
For further information contact: K.Fatsar@kingston.ac.uk
The report ‘Health and the natural environment: A review of evidence, policy, practice and opportunities for the future’ and associated Research Briefing and Evidence Statement are published by Defra (Defra Project Code BE0109) and are available from the Department’s Science and Research Projects Database at http://randd.defra.gov.uk.
This excellent and extensive report by Dr Rebecca Lovell and Professor Michael Depledge of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at University of Exeter Medical School and Dr Simon Maxwell of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs focused on the interconnections between the natural environment and health, and the ways in which these are, or could be harnessed in policy and practice.
The aims of the project were to:
- Clarify what is known about the linkages between natural environments and health, to characterise how different social groups understand the health potential of the natural environment, and to examine the factors that may facilitate or prevent the realisation of those benefits;
- Evaluate how evidence of the value of natural environments to health is recognised, taken into account by, and incorporated into existing policy and practice;
- Identify effective and promising opportunities to act on the value of natural environments to promote better health.
The report recognises that there are many organisations involved in activity which aims to recognise, promote or harness the health potential of the natural environment, including governmental departments, research institutions, funding bodies, 3rd sector and civil society organisations, and the private and commercial sector. The Landscape Institute is identified amongst a comprehensive list of cross-sectoral organisations, professional bodies and networks.
A key opportunity for the Landscape profession is identified in the section that identifies the most promising opportunities and strategies to act on the potential of natural environments to promote better health.
“Improve the amount, quality, standards and accessibility of urban natural environments. Some of the strongest and most robust associations relate to the positive health outcomes of living in areas with a greater amount of good quality natural environment. Strategies could include working with local authorities and other environmental managers to develop standards for health promoting natural environments and identifying the additional and interactive role of urban greenspaces in delivering wider policies and programmes (e.g. health or education).”
The report establishes evidence of the linkages between natural environments and health by commenting that there is,
” ….a growing body of evidence regarding the effectiveness of specific natural environment related interventions. Newly emerging evidence is clarifying how the siting, design or maintenance of natural environments (particularly in urban areas) can enhance health, however the results are mixed. Interventions which have sought to encourage health related access or engagement with, or which have used the environment as a setting to promote health (preventative or therapeutic), have typically resulted in positive impacts to outcomes such as mental health, quality of life and to behaviours such as physical activity.”
1. There is evidence of positive associations (after controlling for confounding factors) between living in greener environments and a range of physical, mental and developmental outcomes and reduced health inequality. There is also a growing body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the use natural environments as a setting for specific health interventions and that these interventions can be cost-effective
2. There are gaps in the evidence base, these relate to mechanisms and causal linkages, and to variation in effect according to environment (location, type and quality), population or intervention. However, there is much ongoing multi-disciplinary work which may address these questions. There is a new emphasis on producing evidence suitable to inform future decision making.
3. People value the natural environment for its role in helping achieve and maintain better health. In the UK the natural environment’s contribution to health is culturally important. Perceptions of the benefits of the natural environment differ according to socio-cultural group, geographical and political context, and through the life course, however this is less well understood.
4. There is considerable interest, predominantly from 3rd sector and research organisations but also from national and local government, in finding effective ways to harness the potential of the natural environment to promote health. This relates to a tangible recognition that the environment represents an underutilised resource. Examples of activity include local health projects making use of natural environments as a health promotion setting, to regional or national scale multi-sectoral efforts to coordinate programmes of interventions. However, existing activity is often disjointed, short term and opportunities to learn valuable lessons are missed. The multi-sectoral nature of the issues and activities means the potential of the natural environment to contribute to health is, arguably, ‘falling through the cracks’.
5. The key constraints of activity are often structural, relating to the organisation and procedures of government (local and national) or institutions. Other barriers to activity relate to: the perception of the peripherality of the environment to health; reorganisations of institutions and the loss of networks and knowledge; difficulties in demonstrating impacts and outcomes of environment-health interventions; and the constrained budgets and (perceived) rigidity of the health and social care system.
6. As current policy and practice display characteristics of ‘complex adaptive systems’, future activities should involve multiple partners, policy instruments and delivery methods at a variety of scales. Key strategies to increase recognition and activity regarding the health values of natural environments relate to: i) improving the evidence base and increasing evaluative activity; ii) identifying and facilitating key intervention and delivery options; and iii) focusing on the structures and systems in which decision making and delivery takes place.
Possible areas for further research
Despite the growing evidence of positive and significant impacts of the natural environment on a variety of health outcomes, there a number of limitations to the current evidence base, these relate to the scope and extent of specific bodies of the research, the quality of the methodologies used, and the reliability and transferability of findings. Key evidence needs relate to:
- A greater understanding of the socio-cultural and temporal factors within environment-health relationships and of the heterogeneity and consistency of outcomes.
- The necessary conditions for natural environments to be effective in promoting health, and the contexts, settings and life stages during which interventions to promote the health benefits of natural environments are most effective.
- The role of the natural environment in promoting individual or community health related resilience (particularly in relation to multiple deprivation).
- The factors or interventions that are effective in encouraging health related use of the natural environment and how this can be achieved without exacerbating health inequalities.
- Clarification of how the links between natural environments and health are understood and acted upon by professionals or within institutions, for instance, in relation to the acceptability of green prescription approaches.
The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) earlier considered risks to health, wellbeing and productivity associated with heatwaves, reviewed the level of UK resilience to them and assessed the Government’s actions to date. The Committee also examined public health risks associated with higher temperatures as well as heatwaves. The full remit of the enquiry can be read here. Following their reveiw the EAC produced a report of their findings “Heatwaves: adapting to climate change” – published in July 2018.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is now accusing Ministers of “dragging their feet” on action to protect people from heatwaves and is calling on the Government to do more. The Environmental Audit Committee was commenting on the Government’s response to its earlier report – warning that there will be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 if the Government does not act. The Government must do more to protect the public from the effects of heatwaves, says the Environmental Audit Committee. The Committee found that failing to address the danger of heatwaves will threaten the wellbeing of an increasing number of vulnerable people.
The earlier ECA report called on the Government to:
1. Ensure NHS England issues guidance on planning for summer pressures, to ensure that adequate steps are taken to prepare the NHS for more frequent heatwaves. NHS organisations should submit annual heatwave plans to ensure they are prepared for the sudden onset of a heatwave;
2. Inspect resilience to heatwaves in hospitals and care homes through the Care Quality Commission and NHS England;
3. Protect peoples’ health by changing building regulations to prevent overheating;
4. Review the capacity of local authorities to deliver climate change resilience, require them to report on their adaptation to climate change and introduce an urban green infrastructure target for cities;
5. Introduce stricter water efficiency standards as part of the building regulations;
6. Coordinate a study of vulnerability to heat-health risks on transport and how this contributes to economic loss during heatwaves;
7. Make businesses aware of the threat of heatwaves and the economic consequences. Public Health England should also issue formal guidance to employers to relax dress codes and allow flexible working during heatwaves, and the Government should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort;
8. Issue guidance for head teachers about safe temperatures in schools and relaxing school uniform policy during hot weather;
9. Launch a public information campaign on the growing frequency and intensity of heatwaves and run a year-round heatwave alert system to warn vulnerable people about the health risks; and
10. Provide a Ministerial lead in the Department of Health and Social Care with responsibility for climate change related health risks.
The Government’s response to the report, published on 25 September 2018, accepts some of the recommendations. However there is concern that ministers have not properly acknowledged many of the conclusions to which the report is based.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said:
“The Government has committed to create sustainable cities and healthy communities as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Ministers must act to protect people from the risks of heatwaves – especially with the UK’s ageing population.
“There is a worrying lack of co-ordination across government, and the Government’s admission that all new properties are prone to overheating is astonishing.
“We are particularly disappointed that the Government have decided to press ahead with using public money to build modular homes, which are particularly vulnerable to overheating, flooding and only last fifty years.”
The Government has resisted the Committee’s call for DEFRA to require local authorities to report on how they are adapting to climate change, on the basis that they already have a number of duties and reporting obligations on a range of climate risks. However, it will consider the recommendation to re-instate the Regional Climate Change Partnerships.
Ministers have rejected calls for mandatory requirements on urban green infrastructure and SuDS in all new developments. Responding to the recommendation that the Government should introduce an urban green infrastructure target as part of the metrics for the 25 Year Environment Plan and in the National Planning Policy Framework, the report says that the Government has committed to encouraging investment in green infrastructure in urban areas.