Month: July 2019

Do you know what a LEZ is?

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With the launch of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, we look at what is happening north of the border to improve air quality. Scotland’s local authorities are at the frontline of encouraging people out of their cars to walk, cycle or use public transport. One tool local government can use in the fight to reduce vehicle emissions – Low Emission Zones (LEZs). Glasgow’s LEZ for buses launched at the end of 2018. By 2022, it is expected that LEZs will be in full operation in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. LEZs use financial penalty to encourage people and transport providers to switch to newer, less directly polluting vehicles. The challenge facing local authorities, however, remains how we encourage more people to leave the car at home for everyday journeys, particularly our towns and cities. LEZs are a tool tested across Europe to improve local air quality, but their efficacy in increasing active travel and improving air quality to a standard that improves health is unclear.

Background

The human and environmental cost of outdoor air pollution is stark, with annual deaths estimated to be between 28,000  and 40,000 in the UK. Illness and lost productivity linked to traffic emissions costs the UK economy an estimated £20 billion each year. In Scotland, 2,500 deaths and a shortened average lifespan of 3-4 months are consequences of the air we breathe. Those consequences disproportionately affect children, older people and people with respiratory and cardiovascular illness. Poor air quality has a greater effect on people living on lower incomes. They are more likely to live in high traffic areas, own fewer cars yet experience the worst effects of traffic and air pollution.

What are low emission zones?

Sweden introduced the first LEZ in 1996 and there are now over 200 LEZs operating in 15 countries. LEZs set a minimum emission standard for vehicles entering a defined area. Only diesel vehicles manufactured from 2015 and petrol cars manufactured from 2006 are likely to meet the standards in the UK. The standards are based on Euro emission engine classifications. The use of Euro standards is unlikely to be affected by Brexit as manufacturers will still make vehicles to the same standards.

The DVLA are developing a database for the public to check their vehicle. In the interim, Transport for London have launched a checker. Charges or fines are imposed on non-compliant vehicles entering a LEZ. The types of vehicles affected vary around Europe, but the focus is usually on heavier vehicles, diesel lorries and buses. Methods of enforcement range from ANPR cameras to coloured vehicle stickers monitored by local police. In Hamburg, two streets are heavily restricted with only diesel cars and lorries meeting the Euro 6 standard able to enter. Few existing European LEZs, however, affect private cars. London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone is an exception rather than the current rule. In Scotland, the government has committed to LEZs affecting both petrol and diesel cars.

LEZs are not implemented in isolation, they are part of wider air quality action plans that seek to reduce emissions from many sources, including industry and homes. Of note is that although many LEZs in Europe were introduced with little public consultation but public compliance and support is generally high. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Infrastructure

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Home to over half of the planet’s population, urban areas are responsible for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

What is green infrastructure and why is it important?

Green infrastructure is defined as a “planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services”. This term incorporates a huge variety of different ecosystems from parks, playing fields and woodlands to community gardens, green roofs and street planters. These spaces facilitate physical activity, relaxation and can be a refuge from the noisy city. Green spaces help to foster biodiversity and provide safe routes for people walking and cycling through the city thus contributing positively to population health. In fact, estimates show that physical inactivity, linked to poor walkability and lack of access to recreational areas, accounts for 3.3% of global deaths.

There is robust evidence to support the claim that green space has a positive impact on people’s wellbeing with features such as parks, rivers and trees creating more liveable and pleasing urban environments. Research has shown that having access to green space can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being and aid in the treatment of mental illness.

Importantly, green spaces also help to regulate the impacts of harmful emissions in the city. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and help to filter out harmful pollution while urban waterways such as lakes, rivers or even fountains moderate temperature and together with vegetation, play a vital role in cooling cities. In some areas, it has been estimated that evapotranspiration (the process of converting water in leaves to water vapor which is then transpired through the trees) can reduce peak summer temperatures by 5°C. Additionally, green spaces provide areas where runoff interception can occur, thus reducing the likelihood of flooding, an issue particularly pertinent to Scotland where winter rainfall is expected to increase between 10-35% in some areas.

Supporting the development of green infrastructure is becoming an even more prominent part of urban policymaking across the world. From street planters to citizen gardening, the following section describes a couple of examples  in which local authorities in Scotland are helping to create healthier, greener cities. Read the rest of this entry »

Coordinated support for child poverty

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The Scottish Government announced it was bringing forward a new Scottish Child Payment, worth £10 per week per eligible child under six, with the aim of lifting 30,000 children out of poverty by 2023-24. COSLA welcomed the news. In addition, a new Access to Childcare Fund will establish new projects across Scotland to deliver more affordable out-of-school care for low income families over a two-year period starting in April 2020.

Funding has also been confirmed for councils and charities to give children from low income families meals and a place to play during the school holidays. Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) will deliver this ‘Food and Fun’ programme locally working in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, AFC Community Trust, Sport Aberdeen and others. (Source: Scot Gov)

 

Embedding kindness

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Kindness, as one aspect of the human condition, is attracting increasing levels of attention from within the policy world. And at first glance, it’s not immediately apparent why. It seems a somewhat alien concept to consider alongside the usual suspects of organisational efficiency, professionalism, regulation and accountability. Carnegie UK have been working with a range of folk interested in embedding kindness within their organisation and in particular with North Ayrshire Council to explore the implications across the entire local authority. Turns out kindness could be a game-changer.

In March 2018, the Carnegie UK Trust brought together a Kindness Innovation Network of people and professionals from across Scotland who had an interest in encouraging kindness in their organisations and communities. At the same time, the Trust began working in partnership with North Ayrshire Council to embed kindness as a value throughout the local authority and region.

The two projects were collaborative and the report reflects a wide range of views and activities from hundreds of people across Scotland. The Practice of Kindness brings together practical examples of things that can be done to create the conditions for kindness. However, it also highlights the barriers to relationships within organisations, and posits kindness as a radical concept that demands challenging the systems and structures – including risk and regulation, professionalism, and performance management – that currently govern our institutions.

To read the full report, visit https://d1ssu070pg2v9i.cloudfront.net/pex/carnegie_uk_trust/2019/06/25090227/Practice-of-Kindness-Report-WEB.pdf