Putting the brakes on air pollution
Councillors on the city council’s Transport and Environment Committee will hear next week that air quality in Edinburgh is improving. However the latest figures produced by Friends of the Earth Scotland show that there are now more pollution zones across Scotland than there were twelve months ago – and that much more needs to be done to address a problem they say is becoming a ‘public health crisis’.
St John’s Road, Queensferry Road and Salamander Street all feature among the ten most polluted roads in Scotland, with Corstorphine’s St John’s Road second only to Glasgow’s Hope Street as worst in the country.
A progress report to be considered at the Transport and Environment committee’s meeting on Tuesday contains data collected in 2015, indicating that Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is showing an overall improvement in Edinburgh, while concentrations within the city’s Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) are also going down. A similar downward trend has also being observed with particle (PM10 and PM2.5).
Early figures for 2016 suggest a continuation of this improving trend, for example in St John’s Road and on Glasgow Road at the Newbridge Roundabout.
These figures come as work is finalised to introduce a new AQMA in Salamander Street, Leith, to tackle higher than acceptable PM10 concentrations, which are thought to result from industrial processes in the area. The Salamander Street AQMA will come into operation on 20 January 2017.
Transport Convener Councillor Lesley Hinds has welcomed the improving trend in Edinburgh’s air quality but warned against complacency. She said: “Although these figures are a welcome and very encouraging sign that our efforts to combat air pollution in Edinburgh are paying off, we cannot and must not be complacent.
“Air pollution remains one of the main threats to ‘quality of life’ in Edinburgh and this Council continues to work extremely hard to address pockets of poor air quality in the city.
“We are currently working on a range of projects to encourage sustainable transport and to improve our own fleet to reduce emissions.
“We monitor air quality continuously across the city and Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) enable us to direct actions more effectively at specific locations.
“Measures to make walking, cycling and public transport as attractive as possible will greatly benefit the Capital’s air quality and quality of life.
“We’re delivering one of Scotland’s longest and most ambitious protected cycle-way schemes in the City Centre West to East Link and with 10% of the entire transport budget going on cycling projects in the coming financial year, we’re making significant investments in active travel provision.
“As well as reducing congestion through improved traffic flow, another key strand of our Air Quality Action Plan and Local Transport Strategy is promoting cleaner transport, especially buses.
“Lothian Buses, the largest bus provider in the Capital, have made great strides in making their fleet much more energy efficient. The company is also looking to introduce a number of electric-powered vehicles for use in the city centre, while other bus operators in the city have also made improvements to their fleets.”
The number of pollution zones in Scotland has risen, according to new figures from Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland. The group found that there are now 38 zones across the country where safety standards for air quality are regularly broken – that’s five more than last year – and environmental camapigners are urging politicians to take more urgent action to address the issue.
FoE Scotland’s say poor air quality causes 2500 early deaths every year and campaigner Emilia Hanna said small children, pregnant women and people living in poverty are particularly affected by air pollution.
“For people living in an official pollution zone or near traffic-choked streets, breathing in toxic air is an inescapable fact of life,” she told the BBC. “It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water. The Scottish government and local authorities are not tackling this public health crisis with the seriousness and urgency required.”