Paul Barker's blog - 6 September: The problem with pollution
06 September 2016
Research from the University of the West of England threw up some interesting points of view last week, but a key issue in addressing air quality is that no single Government department is responsible for sorting it out.
Air pollution has, according to the university's researchers, been designated a "shared priority" between the departments for transport and environment, food and rural affairs. As an expert in the field put it to me, there is no politician with a mandate or inclination for resolving the issue.
Plus the impacts would be so wide-ranging that politicians with any ambition of re-election are shying away from addressing something marked as 'too difficult'.
The research, admittedly designed to make an impact and provoke a response, claims that the emphasis behind any road planning and activity is driven either by safety or traffic flow and economic reasoning, and there's no hint of environmental consideration.
The researchers' solutions are fairly radical, in that they have rejected the idea that gentle legislative change can have an impact on the levels of air pollution that are currently contributing to huge numbers of premature deaths, because changes to the vehicle parc happen too slowly. Therefore reducing vehicle use is seen as the only real solution.
The key sentence was this one: "This will require not just improvements to transport infrastructure but also changes across society in our expectations of how we, and those we connect with, get around."
So, recognised experts in the field are basically saying that the current direction isn't producing the necessary results, and the only way to properly address the air quality problems across the UK - not just in London - is to fundamentally change the way we live, the way we travel and the way we rely on the car. Which is a pretty scary conclusion.