National Clean Air Day: survey reveals air quality as major issue for Brummies

By on 15/06/2017 in Blog, Cllr Trickett

As Birmingham marks the first ever National Clean Air Day, Councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member with responsibility for air quality, reflects on the findings of a recent council survey on the issue and the simple steps people can take to improve air quality across the city.

Today (Thursday 15 June), Birmingham will join other cities across the country in marking the first ever National Clean Air Day.

Organised by environmental charity Global Action Plan in partnership with Birmingham City Council, National Clean Air Day is a day of activities designed to raise awareness of the effects of air pollution and the positive, practical steps people can take to help reduce it.

As part of this, people are being asked to pledge to do one simple thing on the day to make a difference, including switching their car engine off when stationary, leaving their car at home altogether, walking their children to school instead of driving them and sharing tips to cut air pollution with others. If you can do one or more of these things then please do!

Of course, while doing one simple thing on the day is important, but we want National Clean Air Day to inspire people to change their behaviour in the longer term as part of the wider work we are doing to improve air quality in Birmingham. This will include the introduction of a Clean Air Zone, which will place restrictions on the most polluting vehicles from entering certain parts of the city, and we await further clarity from the Government when it publishes its final air quality plan at the end of July.

We know from a recent survey carried out by the council that people living and working in Birmingham overwhelmingly see air quality as a serious issue which needs addressing immediately.

Overall, 97 per cent of respondents thought air quality was either a very or fairly important issue, with 87 per cent believing it needs addressing immediately.

The poll was carried out via the council’s Birmingham Be Heard website to find out what members of the public knew about the issue of air quality, how they felt about it, how it had affected them and what they thought should be done to address it.

Health was a key concern for the vast majority, with 88 per cent believing the impact of air pollution on health to be ‘very serious’, while 68 per cent felt the same way about the impact on the environment.

People were asked for their views on a range of matters, with top answers including:

  • Main causes of air pollution in Birmingham: congestion and idling vehicles (86 per cent), lorries and van (83 per cent), private diesel cars (82 per cent).
  • 88 per cent thought impact on health was very serious, 68 per cent felt the same way about environmental impact.
  • How air pollution has affected people: worrying about its impact on themselves and others (67 per cent), worrying about the burden on the NHS (60 per cent), concerns about climate change (58 per cent).
  • 67 per cent thought air quality was very or fairly important in making travel choices.
  • How to tackle air pollution in Birmingham: more people using public transport (75 per cent), more trees/green spaces (70 per cent), restrictions on most polluting vehicles in certain areas of city (68 per cent).
  • Who should take responsibility for tacking city’s air pollution: Birmingham City Council (89 per cent), UK Government (82 per cent), members of the public (70 per cent).

I am clear that clean air is a basic human right and so it is reassuring to see that so many others share this view, but now we need them to act too.

However, cleaning up Birmingham’s air isn’t something we as a council can do alone – we also need the city’s residents and business communities to get on board and work with us, whether this means thinking about the way they travel, the way they do business or simply switching off their car engine when waiting in traffic or at the side of the road.

Air quality is a major public health issue that affects us all – and together we can make Birmingham a cleaner, greener place like to live, work and visit. We’ve all got a part to play.


Notes to editors

A total of 1,104 people took part in the online survey. For some questions, respondents were able to choose more than one option, so percentages in some cases will not add up to 100 per cent.

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