The government needs to embrace tech if it wants to tackle air pollution [OPINION]

Ministers must embrace tech to tackle air pollution
Support us and go ad-free

A parliamentary inquiry has slammed the government for not doing enough to tackle air pollution. Levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air are still illegal. Other countries suffering from poor air quality are embracing innovative tech solutions to deal with the problem. This is something that the government has to take on board. Their lazy approach to this problem so far has been shameful.

‘Dragged screaming’

Conservative MP Neil Parish, co-chair of the inquiry, said to ministers from various departments:

We are not getting any clear message here about what you are doing about it. The government is being dragged all the time screaming to put poor air quality right.

It’s confusing why ministers are so reluctant to deal with the issue. After all, air pollution affects everyone, including them. Perhaps the government is in denial about the scale of the problem. The 40,000 people who die every year because of dirty air show that this is a “public health emergency”, in the words of Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation.

Clean air zones

The government has shied away from establishing more “clean air zones”. These zones would mean that the most polluting vehicles pay extra for driving in the most heavily polluted cities. Oxford city council and Oxfordshire county council, on the other hand, have taken a more proactive approach. They are banning petrol and diesel cars from Oxford city centre.

These plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars are certainly a step in the right direction. But is it enough? Green MP Caroline Lucas doesn’t think so. Instead, Lucas says:

the government should be embarking on a paradigm shift when it comes to how we get about in this country.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Monitoring the problem

This is where the tech sector comes in. Firstly, we need to properly monitor the situation. The University of Leicester and aerial mapping company BlueSky have joined forces in a venture called EarthSense Systems. And they recently published MappAir – a high resolution nationwide map of air pollution. James Eddy, Managing Director of EarthSense Systems, said:

there simply isn’t enough data available for those charged with tackling the issue to make informed decisions. MappAir can provide a street-view to city-wide visualisation of air pollution…

He added:

Air pollution is not a constant threat. Not only does it differ from location to location, as MappAir clearly shows, but it also changes from morning rush hour to afternoon school run, and from week day commutes to weekend leisure pursuits.

If we want to tackle air pollution effectively then we need accurate data so the government can plan accordingly.

Elevated e-bike cycleways

Commuting contributes significantly to air pollution in the big crowded cities. For the sake of cleaner commuting, BMW and Tongji University in Shanghai have proposed building elevated e-bike cycleways in congested Chinese cities. This is exactly the kind of transport tranformation that Lucas is talking about. London, for example, would benefit hugely from this change. Green Future emphasises the benefits of e-bikes, pointing out that:

if every American living within five miles of their work were to commute by bike at least one day a week, it would be like taking a million cars off the road entirely.

We all have the right to clean air. The government needs to embrace tech to ensure that no one has to live in an environment which damages their health.

Get Involved!

– Read more articles from The Canary‘s Environment section.

Join us, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via Flickr

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed