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Air Quality, local authorities, sustainability

How do local authorities respond to COVID and ensure sustainable development?

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Developing sustainability in covid world

The impact of COVID and the importance of sustainability in local areas

The UK has already faced economic downturn because of the impact of COVID. Local councils up and down the country have been at the forefront of helping communities to improve the economic, social, and security implications that the global pandemic has negatively impacted. National and regional lockdowns have had some positive benefits in reducing carbon emissions and improving air pollution. However, as communities find themselves needing to get back to business as normal, local authorities will be key in trying to enable sustainable development and maintain cleaner air.

Going forward, all councils will play their part in the governments plans to build a more sustainable world by committing to net zero carbon emissions and as laid out by law, emissions must be reduced by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Council actions also include action not only on reducing air pollution but also on harmful waste such as plastics and trying to make a more green, clean and biodiverse world. To do this, councils will have to work with local businesses to ensure that they are doing all they can to take social responsibility for their actions and to limit their air pollution.

Many councils are already taking action to make sure businesses are getting the support they need following COVID including business grants other financial means. As well as ensuring the trend of limiting unnecessary air pollution and encouraging people and organisations to be more mindful of their actions on the environment. For instance, 19 local councils (which represent a quarter of the UK population) shared their climate data to CDP in 2019 with certain authorities such as Ashden leading the way for sustainability in their region. 277 out of 408 authorities (68%) have declared a climate emergency, meaning that businesses, partners and local communities have to cooperate to the guidance set out and the plans to be a carbon neutral region. For example, the UK aims to end all non-electric vehicles by 2035. This is a vital step in kickstarting a real drive on reducing air pollution, but of course there are many steps that authorities will need to take to ensure this decline in carbon emissions carries on throughout the pandemic and beyond.

How exactly can sustainability and net zero targets be achieved?

The Committee on Climate Change (The CCC) produced their progress report in June 2020 in response to reducing UK emissions. What is clear is that the authorities are keen to still work towards being net-zero and being sustainable, but plans will need to integrate the needs to the economic recovery of COVID. These plans that have been set out will cover the short, medium- and long-term impacts of COVID 19 to enable a resilient recovery to the pandemic whilst carrying on the development of the work against climate change. Focusing on creating jobs for unemployed people is key but also mitigating unnecessary travel. Creating jobs focussed on a net-zero infrastructure will help to drive this objective.

Cities throughout the world have seen air quality improving due to a lack of activity caused lockdowns in the wake of Covid-19. Councils are looking to reinvest in companies and initiatives and increase budgets that carry on with measures that combat air pollution. For instance, Bristol City Council are continuing to invest in partnerships in the renewable industry, which is driving more focus on their goal of being net-zero targets whilst also delivering more job opportunities in the construction and environmental industry, giving them an economic boost. There are many creative solutions and initiatives that local authorities can take to improve sustainable development even further such as crowdfunding, platforms for monitoring air pollution and quality and further business partnerships.

Local councils will need to lead and actively encourage investment into the private sector to reinvigorate the economy whilst improving the local environment. To really hone in on measuring air pollution levels, authorities are using air quality platforms and tools like EMSOL to effectively understand when and why pollution breaches occur and alert the right people to take action and improve air quality. To learn more about the EMSOL, why not book a personalised demo with the team?

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