Oxford City Council wins Air Quality Communications Initiative of the Year

Published: Friday, 12th October 2018

An air quality campaign by Oxford City Council has been awarded Air Quality Communications Initiative of the Year in the 2018 National Air Quality Awards.

The Schools Tackling Oxford’s Air Pollution (STOP) project was among the winners from over 80 entries put forward across nine categories.

The project aims to raise awareness of the main sources and health effects of air pollution emissions among the school community. Schools are able to download the air quality toolkit, which provides science teachers with a range of interactive activities, based both in the classroom and outdoors. The City Council’s air quality monitoring officer has also been providing further information to schools and leading assemblies on air pollution.

The initiative also saw the launch of the Oxford Air Needs Your Care campaign with Oxford Friends of the Earth. The anti-idling campaign aims to encourage parents across the city to not to leave their vehicle’s engine running while waiting at the school gate.

The awards, which were organised by AirQualityNews.com in partnership with Mercedes Benz Trucks, are now in their fourth year.

The judging panel included Anne Godfrey, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Gloria Esposito, Head of Projects, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and Rebecca Fuller, Assistant Director, Urban Transport Group and Will Date, Editor of airqualitynews.com.

The judges recognised the passion behind the project and praised the variety of activities included within the project, including the air quality toolkit, air quality sensors, and the anti-idling campaign.

New data showed that air pollution in Oxford fell by 22.7% between 2016 and 2017, but four of the city’s monitoring locations still registered levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) above the legal limit.

Data by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimated that between 28,000 and 36,000 premature deaths in the UK every year could be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution. Health experts have warned that there is no safe level of NO2.

Last year, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council announced proposals to introduce the world’s first Zero Emission Zone in Oxford city centre in stages between 2020 and 2035.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Board Member for A Safer and Greener Environment, said: “Children are the least responsible for polluting the air but the most vulnerable to its long-term health effects. This is unfair. Every child has the right to health. Every child has the right to live, learn and play in a safe and green environment. Yet, day in, day out, children are breathing in polluted air. 

“To address this inequality, Oxford City Council and Friends of the Earth are urging parents and everyone else to switch their engines off if they’re parked anywhere near a school gate. I’m delighted that this campaign has been recognised with a top accolade by the judges of Air Quality News. Hopefully this award win will lead more fossil fuel vehicle drivers to protect children from the toxic air where they learn, live, and play.”

Fiona Tavner, Coordinator of Oxford Friends of the Earth, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the STOP campaign has been presented with this award. This initiative was the first partnership between Oxford Friends of the Earth and the City Council. This collaboration allowed us to work alongside the City Council, local schools and communities to teach children and their families about the dangers of air pollution through the toolkit. 

“We all can play a part in helping to combat air pollution, which can affect us all and children in particular. This includes reducing our use of cars and using alternatives such as public transport, cycling and walking as much as possible.

“We're looking forward to continuing our partnership with the City Council, working together to tackle air pollution in Oxford.”

 To download the new toolkit, please visit the Schools Tackling Oxford's Air Pollution (STOP) page on our website.