In June 2017, Friends of the Earth groups around the country were asking people to write to their MPs to “call for urgent and effective action to clean up our illegally polluted air and phase out dirty diesel vehicles.”
In Nottingham we recruited Robin Hood to support the campaign for “Clean Air Everywhere”.
We also did our own testing of nitrogen dioxide levels next to some of Nottingham’s main roads in April – with 7 out of 9 sites showing levels over 40μg/m3 which is the legal limit for annual average. We found particularly high levels on Maid Marian Way near the city centre and on Western Boulevard on the ring road. The City Council confirmed that these results were similar to their own monitoring.
All around the country, Friends of the Earth has been promoting ‘Citizen Science’ air pollution monitoring with thousands of people doing this. Over 1 in 6 sites had levels over 40μg/m3 – with high levels in 133 local authority areas including Nottingham, Broxtowe, Gedling, Rushcliffe and Erewash. Details are in a report: Unmasked: the true story of the air you’re breathing.
So why have we been waiting so long for action to curb air pollution?
For background see the leaflet we produced in 2016: Nottingham needs a Clean Air Zone. This noted that air pollution kills around 40,000 people prematurely every year in the UK – including around 200 a year in Nottingham City and 600 in the rest of Notts. Most of this is caused by traffic pollution – mainly fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide – particularly from diesel vehicles.
EU limits set for 2010 had still not been achieved in many parts of the UK by 2015, including Nottingham. So an activist legal group Client Earth went to the courts to force the government to produce an Action Plan. And they have had to keep going back to the courts to force more urgency.
The government’s latest plan, dated July 2017, requires a number of cities including Nottingham to implement a Clean Air Zone, but maybe not until 2020. We still don’t know what a Clean Air Zone will mean for Nottingham or whether the government will provide the necessary resources.