The Scottish Government today launched its long awaited “Cleaner Air for Scotland” air quality strategy. Campaigners have welcomed the Scottish Government’s ambition to implement World Health Organisation guidelines on safety standards for PM2.5 into statutory limits.
They have also welcomed its commitment to meeting European air quality limits by 2020 as well as plans for a National Modelling Framework but have condemned the admission that Scotland’s air will not be cleaned up by 2020. They are also concerned that the Strategy will require funding to be deliverable.
Levels of air pollution are breaking health standards in 32 official Pollution Zones across Scotland, including in parts of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen.
Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna said: “Many people have put lots of time into creating this Strategy and it signals important steps in the right direction but it is very disappointing that Scotland will still be waiting for clean air well beyond 2020. Scotland is going to set tougher targets to protect health but doesn’t have a plan which will deliver them any time soon. In particular, there are not enough measures in the Strategy to get the most polluting traffic off our roads.
“Air pollution has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, and cancer, and causes thousands of early deaths each year in Scotland. We need much more urgent action if we are to tackle Scotland’s current air pollution health crisis.
On Low Emission Zones: “There are 200 Low Emission Zones in European cities, so it is encouraging that officials now suggest that we could see these on the ground in Scotland by 2018. Low Emission Zones will only happen if government helps local councils with dedicated funding.
On Transport actions: “Eighty percent of urban air pollution from nitrogen dioxide comes from traffic so the Scottish Government must tackle traffic levels. Although there are welcome nods to prioritising walking, cycling, and public transport in the new strategy, there is no central plan to reduce traffic levels in urban areas.
On New Statutory Standards for fine particles: “Fine particles have a devastating impact on health and cause over 2000 deaths every year in Scotland, so we welcome the Government’s ambition to introduce a new legal standard to limit these emissions based on World Health Organisation guidelines. However we question how this new standard will be monitored and implemented given that there are only 6 locations in Scotland which currently monitor fine particles.
On the National Modelling Framework: “The Strategy sets out a useful Modelling Framework which would help local councils to choose what measures are most appropriate to tackle air pollution. But there is a danger that the Framework has been usurped to delay other actions in the Strategy, and crucially we do not want it to delay the implementation of vitally needed Low Emission Zones.
On the legality of the Strategy: “The UK Supreme Court made it clear in April that there would have to be a fresh public consultation on air quality plans. The Scottish Government has not consulted the public on the detail of its Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy since the legal ruling and is therefore failing to abide by the Supreme Court decision.
“European Law requires air quality plans to show how much each action to tackle toxic air will reduce levels of pollution. Cleaner Air for Scotland fails to spell this out and is therefore in breach of the European Ambient Air Quality Directive.”
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.