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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.
“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.
“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’.
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.
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.
“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:
- Leave your car at home and use public transit to commute to any UK city.
- Install a programmable thermostat in your home and set it to ‘Eco Mode’.
- Install double-glazed windows, insulated exterior doors and seal drafts.
- Once per week, consume plant-based protein instead of meat protein.
- 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.
So many people are caught up in the present Brexit moment they forget there will be life after the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019.
With that in mind, policymakers must begin to focus on the problems that will still be with us in the immediate post-Brexit timeframe.
Q: Why can’t they do that now?
A: Because their hands may be tied by present EU regulations, or everyone is waiting to see what kind of Brexit deal the UK gets, or they’re busy advising business groups and the government how to maximize their Brexit advantage.
So let’s begin the post-Brexit era by solving problems we know will still remain after Brexit day — and use solutions that aren’t presently viable due to EU regulations or norms.
Ask Any Londoner and They’ll Tell You their Worst Daily Problem is City Traffic
Actually, the worst problem Londoners face is the weather. But the City’s notorious traffic congestion starts early, the roads become increasingly packed with vehicles, air pollution levels skyrocket, life occasionally becomes dangerous for pedestrians, and it wastes millions of hours of time every year.
Not only London, but Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Edinburgh and other UK cities force drivers to spend countless hours stuck in traffic and millions of gallons of petrol are wasted annually as cars and lorries inch along the country’s congested roadways.
Of course nothing can be done about it — because if something could be done it would’ve already been done! Right?
Except there is a way to decrease traffic congestion: Theresa May’s first legislation following Brexit should be to ban all lorries from operating within cities of 1 million inhabitants or more — from 6:00am until 6:00pm every weekday.
Lorries could still cross from the continent on ferries or via the Chunnel, operate in the countryside, passing through towns and smaller cities and arrive at (for example) London’s Ring Road anytime after 6:00pm each weekday. Yes, they’d need to obtain ‘the key to the shop’ to unload the shipment at ‘Mom & Dad’s Deli’ or perhaps drop an appropriately sized (and electronically locked) crate full of goods on the loading dock.
It’s a scheduling issue for freight companies; As long as their large vehicles are parked or otherwise off the UK’s major city roads by 6:00am each weekday they won’t incur automatic/electronic fines and they’ll be able to go on with the rest of their day as normal.
Trash haulers, freight delivery, fuel trucks and other transporters will simply adjust their schedules to comply with the weekday hours ban.
List the of Benefits of Such a Plan!
Think of Britain’s major cities free of lorries within their city limits from 6:00am until 6:00pm every weekday:
- Less traffic, less traffic noise, less congestion and less gridlock.
- Increased parking availability.
- Better visibility for cars, cyclists and pedestrians equals fewer accidents and lower NHS spending.
- Lower air pollution levels on weekdays result in fewer respiratory emergencies, thereby saving the NHS budget millions annually and helping the UK to meet its international clean air commitments.
- Although lorry drivers would work different hours, they’d have far less traffic to deal with between the hours of 6:00pm and 6:00am, their big rigs would have acres of room to maneuver around in and they’d easily find parking to offload or load their goods.
- An automatic/electronic fine for lorries that enter the city during banned hours of the day could go towards building major lorry parking/queuing areas on the outskirts of major cities. Perhaps a great place to set up coffee shops and motels dedicated to truckers so they can grab a few hours sleep before their afternoon shift/night shift begins? And (while they sleep during the day) have their big rig repaired at a shop within the secure ‘Trucker Zone’ area. If so, I want to invest in those dedicated Trucker Zones — talk about having a captive audience! — the lorries can’t leave until 6:00pm and if they do they would automatically incur a £100 fine as soon as they pass the “City Limits” sign a few feet down the road!
- Trucking companies could arrange to have a fully loaded lorry parked and ready to roll at such ‘Trucker Zones’ for each night shift driver to pick up at the beginning of his/her shift and provide a safe place to drop it off in the morning.
- Lorry drivers should gain free and hassle-free parking anywhere in the city between 6:00pm and 6:00am and receive special consideration from police in case a lorry driver happens to park in front of a ‘No Parking Zone’ for the few minutes it takes to deliver the load. As hardly anyone is around in the middle of the night and there’s no traffic, why make an issue of minor parking rules?
- Lorries leaving major UK cities at 6:00am could pull into the ‘Trucker Zone’ nearest them at the end of their shift, leaving the lorry there for the daytime driver to carry on with the day shift’s rural deliveries/pick ups.
- National productivity could be enhanced by requiring lorries to remain outside city limits (or parked within the City) during the daytime hours, giving them free run in cities until 6:00am.
- Cities might notice more lorry traffic at the weekend. However, the vast majority of cars aren’t on city roads during the weekend so lorry traffic won’t be too onerous.
Certainly, traffic and congestion in the UK aren’t the fault of the EU, but in the post-Brexit timeframe UK regulators will have a freer hand to solve many issues. Traffic congestion is a problem that affects everyone whether you drive a car, ride a bus, pedal a bike, own a business, or are a tourist who wants to get from tourist site “A” to tourist site “B” and not spend the whole day at it.
Cities depend upon free movement of goods and people. Moving to a two-track plan to obtain better use from city roads could radically change how we use cities. And the day after Brexit is as good a time as any to begin making the best use of those valuable assets.
Image courtesy of motortransport.co.uk