On Clean Air Day 2020, Oxford City Council is encouraging residents to have their say on what the Council will do the improve air quality in the city from 2021-2025.
Clean Air Day, co-ordinated by Global Action Plan, is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign. The campaign works to improve public understanding of air pollution both indoors and outdoors and to build awareness of how air pollution affects our health.
Clean Air Day usually takes place on third Thursday in June, however this year the campaign was postponed to Thursday 8 October in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The consultation, which launched on Friday 11 September, asks residents, business, and stakeholders for their views on the introduction of a new local target for air quality; the first of its kind in the UK, and seek views on the measures proposed to tackle air pollution.
The consultation also asks individuals about what measures they are prepared to take to reduce pollution in the City.
Tackling air pollution
The Air Quality Action Plan 2021-2025 outlines the actions that the Council will take to improve air quality in Oxford City between the years 2021 to 2025.
The Air Quality Action Plan will build upon the foundations of the previous plan which saw the announcement of schemes such as the Zero Emission Zone and Connecting Oxford, in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council.
The City Council has set out plans to go significantly further than the current legal target for air pollution, including setting out a city-wide air pollution reduction target, with a new local annual mean NO2 target of 30 µg/m3 by 2025.
The localised air pollution reduction target goes further than the legal annual mean limit value for NO2 of 40 µg/m3.
The Air Quality Action Plan 2021-25 also outlines a framework of activity in the city to reduce NO2 emissions, whilst also highlighting new actions to reach and go beyond the council’s new NO2 local target.
The plan sets out 30 actions and measures for the Council to deliver with its partners across four priority areas:
- Developing partnerships and public education;
- Support for the uptake of low and zero emission vehicles;
- Reducing emissions from domestic heating, industry and services
- Reduce the need to travel, explore opportunities for mode shift and increase the uptake of sustainable transport
The impact of air pollution
Overall, since 2013 the city has seen a 26% reduction in NO2 levels. However, since 2017 the city has seen air pollution levels plateau.
Oxford city centre saw a historic 64% drop in air pollution as a direct result of the coronavirus lockdown. Compelling data shows that polluted air increases coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and deaths.
Research by the University of Manchester (UoM), on behalf of the co-ordinators of Clean Air Day, Global Action Plan and the Philips Foundation, has found that maintaining lower outdoor air pollution (NO2) levels could improve a child’s ability to learn.
The City Council has been working schools across the city to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution through the STOP project. Last month, the City Council and Oxford Friends of the Earth announced the winners of their schools banner competition.
Take part in the consultation
The consultation is open from Thursday 10 September to 23.59 on Sunday 1 November, and is open to residents, businesses, and stakeholders.
"Clean Air Day reminds us all of the dangers of air pollution in our lives. There is new compelling evidence that exposure to air pollution significantly increases the risk of contracting coronavirus and dying from it. Clean Air Day also reminds us of the importance of why we need to take additional bold measures to tackle it.
“In recent days we have seen new evidence emerging which shows that poor air quality is not only damaging children’s health, but is having an impact on their ability to learn. Cleaning up our air can help to provide educational opportunities to Oxford's young citizens, especially as there is considerable concern about the full impact that coronavirus will ultimately have on children and young people's education.
“In Oxford, we have reduced the main pollutant of concern by 26% over the last seven years, but now we are looking to the future and what more we can do. We want to hear from residents, businesses, and groups across the city about what they think we should be doing. Every day should be a Clean Air Day, we need your views in our consultation to make that happen.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council