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Empowering UK Cities to Meet CO2 Targets in the Post-Brexit Era

by John Brian Shannon

C40 Cities Initiative, CO2, UK cities

Image courtesy of the C40 Cities Initiative.

Whether you believe in global warming and sea level rise or not, most people would agree that breathing clean air is better for you than breathing toxic exhaust fumes and that drinking clean water is healthier for human beings. If you don’t believe that statement, you’ve got bigger problems than polluted air in cities.

A British citizen emits more CO2 in two weeks than some people in Africa do in a year, research shows

“The UK ranked 36th in the world for its CO2 emissions from consumption spread across its population, totalling at 8.34 tonnes per person in 2017 – the last year when such data for the UK was available. The global average for that year was 4.7 tonnes of CO2 per person.” — The Independent

As always, there’s a hard way to go about accomplishing something and an easier, more efficient way of getting things done. Which brings me to the point of this particular blog post, and that is… there is no reason that UK cities need to ‘go it alone’ in their quest to lower CO2 emissions — rather, by aligning with the C40 Cities initiative which provides expertise and other supports to member cities, UK cities can streamline their progress and get even better results by taking the C40 cities route to clean air and water.

Cities around the world are building a brighter future

“Human civilisation is facing an environmental crisis on a global scale. The world has failed to stop carbon emissions rising in a way that is consistent with a sustainable future for humanity and now we face a climate emergency. But the world’s leading cities are taking action to respond to the climate crisis and create the future we want.” — C40 Cities

There is help in numbers. There is also an unparalleled degree of technical assistance offered by the C40 Cities organization, and member cities share the results of their various CO2 reduction programmes with other member cities. And, being part of a larger group dedicated to clean air and water and better health for citizens means that UK cities won’t be ‘going it alone’.

Europe's Biggest CO2 emitters

Europe’s Biggest CO2 emitters. Image courtesy of Statista


Clean Air and Clean Water Works to Lower Healthcare Spending

Macmillan Cancer Support says that half of the UK population will develop cancer in their lifetime — which puts an unbelievable strain on the NHS, on families where half of them will face some kind of cancer in their life, and on the GDP of the United Kingdom.

Although there isn’t a direct link from highly polluted city air to cancer, it is widely acknowledged that respiratory ailments of all kinds are common in cities known for poor air quality and respiratory cancers represent some percentage of those ailments.

Half of UK population ‘will get cancer in lifetime’

The number of people in the UK who will get cancer during their lifetime will increase to nearly half the population by 2020, a report has forecast. Macmillan Cancer Support said the projected figure of 47%, up from the current 44%, would put huge pressure on the NHS. But the charity said that more people were surviving cancer compared to 20 years ago. — BBC

Even though cancer survival rates have improved in recent years, it becomes ever more costly as new (and astonishingly expensive!) technology comes online to improve the survivability odds of cancer. Prevention therefore, becomes more important as the incidence of various cancers increase and treatment becomes more expensive.

Cancer in the UK 2019

In the 1970s, only 1 in 4 cancer patients would survive their disease for ten years or more. By 2010, this had risen to 2 in 4, and survival continues to improve today. This is due to groundbreaking research, innovative new treatments, and the tireless efforts of staff right across the NHS. However, there is still much to be done. This report summarises the current state of cancer in the UK, recognising where progress has been made, and highlighting the challenges that we continue to face. Cancer Research UK’s ambitious vision to see 3 in 4 people with cancer survive for ten years or more by 2034 serves as a driving force […] across the UK to achieve this.” — cruk.org

By working to improve air quality in UK cities, respiratory disease rates will fall — including cancers of the respiratory kind — which will help to lower NHS spending. See how it all weaves together? Investing in clean air in cities means lower healthcare spending.

And that’s a point sometimes forgotten by some of the good-hearted clean air purists pushing for lower CO2 emissions. Clean air in cities will save us money! Even hard-nosed business tycoons should understand that kind of logic.


What Can You Do?

What can you do to help improve the air in UK cities and lower your chances for air pollution caused illness?

Here are five ways to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem:

  1. Leave your car at home and use public transit to commute to any UK city.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat in your home and set it to ‘Eco Mode’.
  3. Install double-glazed windows, insulated exterior doors and seal drafts.
  4. Once per week, consume plant-based protein instead of meat protein.
  5. Shop locally. Decide to buy your meat and veg from local suppliers.

By choosing to lower your CO2 footprint, you’ll be working to lower the overall air pollution in the city in which you live or work, and you’ll help lower your chances of contracting some kind of respiratory disease (including respiratory cancers) and you’ll be setting a fine example for your family, friends and associates.

Living a healthier life, emitting less CO2, and living in cleaner cities will help to deliver the kind of transformation that Britons and UK cities need to survive and thrive in the 21st-century.


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