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Tackling air pollution and climate change

From Anthony Rae

Thursday, 31 January 2019

This partly picks up the air quality discussion from previous Hebweb threads (here and then here), and links it to the even more urgent issue of climate change, all in the context of next Tuesday’s public meeting in Hebden Bridge Town Hall (organised by the Green party) The climate crisis and tackling Calderdale's air pollution at which Cllr Daniel Sutherland, the Calderdale Cabinet member responsible for both of these matters, and I wearing a Friends of the Earth hat, will be speaking (see details on the What’s on page). And also in the context of the ‘climate emergency’ resolution passed by Calderdale Council on Wednesday; if you want you can watch the webcast of the debate here (starting at 2 hours 6 minutes). I understand the wording of that resolution is something like this.

On climate change, where our Manchester neighbour over the Pennines has been proceeding at a faster pace - it must be because they have a Metro Mayor and we don’t - there is now a proposal for a Leeds City Region Climate Summit sometime in the summer. At a meeting at the West Yorkshire level on Tuesday I was able, via points made by Calderdale Cllr Jenny Lynn, to secure an agreement that ‘civil society’ groups like FOE, and many others as well, needed to be involved in the preparations for this event in order to ensure that the more challenging questions are addressed.

On air pollution, where FOE has been campaigning for years that air quality levels in all of Calderdale seven air quality management areas (AQMAs) comply with the legal limits - and not getting very far, it has to be said, not just because of the weakness of the national air quality plan but also the lack of determination by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to actually implement its own objective to ‘reduce as far as possible to zero, emissions of CO2, NO2, particulates and noise from transport’ - we’ve gone so far as to tell Calderdale Council that we’re not prepared to support their new air quality action plan that’s about to be adopted, because we don’t think it will deliver compliant air quality, including here in the Hebden Bridge AQMA, and it would be irresponsible to pretend otherwise. Again what is needed is determined action at the West Yorkshire level, in this case to challenge the government to provide local authorities with the powers and resources they need to reduce air pollution to legal limits.

So this should be quite a lot to talk about on Tuesday, but if you want to raise any issues here we’ll make sure they’re covered at the meeting.

From Andy JM

Friday, 1 February 2019

How seriously Calderdale Council takes Air Quality as an issue will be tested earlier in the day, with the Calder Valley Land Trust Bridge Lanes development due before the planning committee at 3pm.

From Larry Kin

Saturday, 2 February 2019

What are the measures the local authority has the power and practical ability to enact that would jointly suffice to improve air quality so that pollutants are at acceptable levels?

From Anthony Rae

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Larry - very good question, because the message of my last paragraph is that Calderdale actually don’t have ‘the power and practical ability to enact that would suffice to improve air quality so that pollutants are at acceptable levels?’ If that’s the case, then what’s to be done? Let’s see if we can explore what the options are at Tuesday’s meeting (so please come along if you can) but afterwards I’ll be posting here what I think its conclusions were.

From Larry Kin

Sunday, 3 February 2019

What sort of determined action at the West Yorkshire level will solve the air pollution issues in Calderdale? Would be helpful to understand the options.

From Anthony Rae

Sunday, 3 February 2019

What sort of determined action should be taken at the West Yorkshire level? I’ll list a few things which I’ll talk about at greater length on Tuesday:

  • The West Yorkshire Transport Strategy has this objective: ‘We will work with partners to deliver the West Yorkshire Low Emission Strategy to reduce as far as possible to zero, emissions of CO2, NO2, particulates and noise from transport’. But … they’re not implementing it! Instead they say it’s more something that the individual districts should be doing, like it’s a game of ‘pass the parcel’.
  • The WY Combined Authority (WYCA) persists in pursuing the sort of AQ strategy which at the national level has been thrown out 3 times by the Supreme Court. It consists of ‘Write out a  long list of interventions - such as ‘cleaner buses’ - which if implemented might have a however unquantified effect on the level of air pollution.' Whereas the test instead that should be applied to any effective AQ strategy is: ‘does it demonstrate with evidence that it will it achieve compliant air quality in the designated area by the specified date?’ At the national level the EU directive set a ‘drop dead’ date by which AQ had to be compliant of ‘no later than 2020’; it was the Supreme Court decision to enforce that deadline which imposed the requirement for a clean air zone in Leeds. At the moment there are no deadlines across West Yorkshire for the AQ in each air quality management area (AQMA) to be made compliant.
  • There are some 30 AQMAs across West Yorkshire, and the WYCA strategy should have been built up from an analysis of the particular problems and potential solutions in each one; but it didn’t do that. Only when WY and Calderdale undertake some basic modelling of e.g what is the trend rate for the air pollution (has it been getting better, or worse?; and in the future?), and what are the particular sources e.g here in Hebden Bridge, will it then be possible to diagnose a bespoke solution. Until they do this basic analysis neither they nor we have any idea as to how and when the problem will be solved.
  • People may have heard of the A646 Corridor Improvement Programme now being consulted on, and may have thought that it’s going to bring about a series of ‘improvements’, such as reducing congestion, etc. But the basic purpose of these WY CIPs is to increase the quantity of road traffic able to move along the main roads; unfortunately they didn’t disclose this, nor is it clear whether they took into account the obvious effect of more road traffic would have on air quality. The FOE analysis of the Calderdale road traffic model has revealed substantial forecast traffic growth over the next decade.
  • A solution such as a ‘clean air zone’ will be suitable for big cities such as London, Leeds Bradford, where you just drop the CAZ around the central area. But in districts like Calderdale that’s not going to be possible because instead the AQMAs are dotted all over the place. So if the preferred approach of a CAZ won’t work here, what will? WYCA should have been finding out.
  • It’s essential that people who are living in AQMAs across West Yorkshire can access easily understandable public information about where the air pollution areas are located, what’s the cause, present and future trend, and potentialbespoke solutions. Instead it’s almost impossible for citizens to find these out.
  • Finally, the West Yorkshire and district politicians need to show some leadership; my impression sitting through the WYCA transport committee discussions about AQ is one of passive complacency. Down in London Mayor Sadiq Khan actually joined Client Earth in taking the government to court. If public authorities whether in Calderdale, West Yorkshire or nationally don’t have sufficient powers or resources to bring in compliant AQ - and they don’t - then they all need to band together and challenge the government to provide them. So far West Yorkshire has shown no such appetite or intention.

From Larry Kin

Sunday, 3 February 2019

What are some examples of tangible actions that can be undertaken by whichever authority is responsible that will reduce air pollution to acceptable levels here?

From Anne H

Monday, 4 February 2019

These are big issues under discussion here. What I'm concerned about is - if Calderdale, and the wider region - have not managed to reach targets in the past how are we to trust their plans for the future? Didn't they plan to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020? Any news on how that's going?

From Larry Kin

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Interested to hear what the actions are that Calderdale and/or West Yorks can do on the ground in order to reduce air pollution to legal limits. It's difficult to get upset about inaction without knowing what it is they could be doing.

From Graham Barker

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Larry’s questions are spot on, but he and probably most of us already know the answers. The best local authorities can do is stop pollution getting worse in a bitty fashion, for example by refusing problematic planning applications.

Otherwise, you can have all the clean air policies and targets you like but they will mean little without major shifts in the ways people behave.

What mainly needs to change is a culture that accepts long commutes as the norm. Not many years ago a 60-mile round trip to work would have been eyebrow-raising, now it’s nothing special. There needs to be much more working from or close to home, and much more living generally within a smaller radius, both literally and metaphorically. The technology to do a lot of it is there but the will, or sense of urgency, evidently isn’t yet.

The way the environmental rot is spreading, we’re looking at hard choices very soon. The ‘offer’ may have to be: choose between the benefits of living in Hebden Bridge and the benefits of working in Leeds or Manchester, because you can no longer have both.  

Local and regional authorities could usefully plan ahead for that scenario. In effect it’s winding the clock back to a time before things started to go wrong, so there is plenty of historical data to draw on.