‘A thousand small cuts’ needed to improve air quality, says Bureau Veritas
In April, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (#DEFRA), published its Clean Air Strategy 2019, setting out ambitious targets to halve the number of people living above the WHO guideline level for fine particulates (PM2.5) of 10 μg/m3 by 2025. The government hopes this will cut the risk of exposure to poor air quality, which claims up to 36,000 deaths each year and is expected to cost the NHS £5.3 billion a year from 2030.
Although major developments have been made in this area, said Dr Richard Maggs,
consulting group manager for Air Quality at Bureau Veritas, there remains an ongoing challenge to overhaul business culture and consumer behaviour.
He commented, ‘Amid a growing consensus for tougher action on air pollution, this year’s Word Environment Day is a great opportunity to highlight how initiatives aimed at tackling the issue are key to improving the air we breathe.
‘In recent years, the Government has targeted and achieved substantial emissions reductions in a range of sectors, notably in the power sector where the closure of coal burning power stations has significantly cut levels of key pollutants, including SO2 to the atmosphere. The UK has also achieved a sustained period of energy production without the use of coal. Other sectors are likely to prove more challenging.
‘To meet the ambitious targets set out in the Clean Air Strategy, the next phase for tackling poor air quality is likely to be incremental, requiring businesses and individuals, supported by the Government, to work together to achieve a ‘a thousand small cuts’ in air pollutant emissions.’
According to Bureau Veritas, which has recently introduced an initiative to plant 6250 trees across its operational sites worldwide, businesses and individuals will need to act holistically in a number of areas – the most urgent of which is the choice of vehicle and fleet management strategies.
Richard added, ‘For businesses that operate large fleets of vehicles, reducing air pollutant levels in UK cities – many of which have introduced or are considering low emission zones, ultra low emission zones, and clean air zones – will need a more dynamic approach to fleet management. Although this will not happen overnight, capital investment in fleet upgrades and wholesale replacement of the worse polluting vehicles will result in better local air quality for everyone.
‘At an individual level, our choice of transport mode – and indeed the fuel used in our cars – presents one of the biggest opportunity areas to improve air quality. Whilst the switch from fossil fuel to electric powered vehicles will lead to emission savings, air quality scientists are currently investigating evidence suggesting that electric vehicles may give rise to higher rates of tyre and brake wear, and re-suspended particulates due to road surface abrasion. This is due to the heavy weight of the vehicles arising as a result of the batteries that are on board.
‘The path to air quality improvements is not an easy one. Alongside a focus on climate change policy, we must also prioritise local environmental quality and the challenge for policy makers is to achieve win-win outcomes that lead to an improvement in our environment for all.’
Bureau Veritas offers a team of air quality experts committed to providing best practice consultancy support for customers around how to assess and manage air pollutant emissions to ensure compliance, whilst maintaining economic feasibility.