“Air pollution ties in with social inequalities”

In this week’s Net Hero Podcast, we spoke to Imogen Martineau, Head of UK portfolio for the Clean Air Fund, who believes that Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) schemes are a necessary evil

Big Zero Report 2023

Climate change needs localised solutions.

This is what Imogen Martineau, Head of UK portfolio at Clean Air Fund, told us in this week’s Net Hero Podcast.

‘For a long time [climate change] had been a kind of a cognitive, intellectual concept, shown in graphs, charts and reports.

‘I mean, I think it’s changing fast because I think people are much more conscious of seeing and feeling and experiencing climate change and its impacts.

‘[But] one of the benefits of talking about air pollution is that it allows the conversation to focus on your local area, on health, on how emissions of greenhouse gases can, whether they’re from vehicles or from houses or from local industry, impact your local community.

Air pollution allows us to change the conversation a bit from this kind of climate change, which I think can often feel so huge, and sometimes it’s happening more over there than over here.’

Imogen believes that the introduction of Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) although controversial, is overall beneficial for society.

‘We think that Low Emission Zones (LEZ) have a really important part to play in reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide and they have been proven to be the fastest way of bringing down concentrations of nitrogen dioxide which were at illegal levels in large parts of the UK.

‘So the British government was mandated to really take drastic action on combating those concentration levels. The ULEZ scheme itself, it’s got its supporters, it’s got its opponents.

‘I totally understand the challenges. I think efforts have been made to support people with the transition to a lower emission transport system.

‘So the scrappage scheme, improvements in public transport but I accept that for certain individuals, it is having a significant impact and during a cost of living crisis, that is going to be experienced more than ever.’

She emphasised on the need for a better public transport system.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have a part to play [but] they do contribute to air pollution through particulate matter, so through brake and tyre wear, they actually contribute to PM 2.5 but they still reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide.

‘I think in terms of a good solution for transport, what we need is a better public transport system that is more reliable, that is cleaner, that is more efficient.

‘So the reason that we’re seeing people getting into their cars, particularly in the last few years, is because public transport isn’t reliable. There are a lot of people who are forced into their cars because they don’t have another option.

‘Ideally you would have good public transport wherever you are in the country.

‘And I think there’s a big role for tech also in this, of finding better solutions, bringing people together, whether that’s through car sharing or on demand buses. But there are solutions out there.’

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