On 21 November, Jess and Alex have been to the Air Quality Summit, jointly organised by Camden and Islington Councils. Here’s their report:

Professor Frank Kelly (King’s College) started the summit on the impacts of air pollution. With 29,000 death per year in the UK, this kills more than road collisions! more than alcoholism! Note that for each of those victims, pollution is causing the loss of 11 years of life on average. He talked in great details of some of the most harmful pollutants: the particulate matters (PM) emitted by diesel vehicles. PM10 are six times thinner than a hair, and yet very harmful. One of the most alarming issue is their effect on the development of children’s lung. For more resources, please refer to comeap.org.uk

Isabel Dedring (Deputy Mayor for Transport) helped us identify the sources of PM10 and NOx. On the one hand, PM10 is a typically transport related pollution, with enormous contributions from the black cabs and from ‘tyre & brake wear’. On the other hand, NOx is a more complex issue, to which traffic but also gas boilers contribute to a great extent. When asked by a conservative councillor why the Mayor didn’t do more to reduce congestion, she pointed out that quicker journey times would generate more demand for car travel. We were happily surprised by this wise position.

Lewis Merdler (Environmental Protection UK) encouraged us to follow the @HealthyAirUK campaign: healthyair.org.uk

Simon Birkett (Clean Air in London, @CleanAirLondon) pointed out that the Environment Audit Committee, in their latest report [link to the EAC report] is talking of a ‘national scandal’ caused by the inaction of the government on air quality. On Euston road, a stone’s throw away from the Council Chamber, the average level of NO2 is three times the legal limit. Already 40 Germany cities have implemented low emission zones (LEZ). What are we waiting for? And are we protected indoors? He recommends us to check if our offices’ ventilation system comply with the EN 13779 standard.

Roger Madelin, developper of the new land behind Kings Cross, has given an enthusiastic talk of which we can remember two points:

– Euston Road has had its capacity severely reduced over months during the rebuild of St Pancras Station around 2004: the road network system didn’t collapse, traffic levels through the area simply dropped! That’s a lesson to learn for decision makers contemplating a reallocation of road space!

– His developments will rely on a heat network, hence preventing the use of individual boilers and reducing NOx emissions.

Lucinda Turner (TfL) was presenting the range of policies which TfL is implementing. In particular, TfL is campaigning for motorists to turn off their engines as soon as they plan stopping for more than 1 minute, which is allegedly the environmental threshold beyond which savings can be made. She also acknowledges that electric vehicles are not ideal considering that they cause congestion, severance… [+ collisions and obesity, which we would add to her words]

Many thanks to Cllr Paul Braithwaite and Cllr Sean Birch for their leadership in organising this meeting. The speaker’s presentations, but also the complete video of the event, have now been uploaded to the Camden Council website