What else is needed apart from new technologies?

Low Emission Zone Signage

The transport sector is very much driven by operational requirements and technical capability. Regardless of the issue faced, new technologies and means of operations have featured heavily in the response. A whole-scale change from leaded to unleaded fuels, for instance, owed as much to changes in the business model of the energy sector as it did to technologies preventing the fuelling of unleaded vehicles with leaded fuel.

This is important to consider. Technologies and solutions are important, and can act as enablers for change in how organisations see an issue. However, they are not sufficient on their own to delivery lasting, change. Improving air quality is no different.

At Emsol, we are committed to our vision, and truly believe that the solution we are developing will have a significant and meaningful impact for our customers and society. What’s more, our plans and product offering will enable our customers to deliver more meaningful and lasting changes to their organisations that will have a much more significant impact.

There is a saying that you are what you measure. To make any meaningful changes requires data and insight that can make the case for lasting change, and to embed best practice.

Most important are changes to procurement and commissioning models towards delivering solutions that are both favourable to the bottom line, and deliver on social responsibilities. The specification in construction contracts that companies are signed up to a good neighbour scheme such as that of the UK Contractors Group has long been established practice for tackling noise pollution. There is also no shortage of best practice guidance on incorporating air quality considerations into procurement, such as this from the West Midlands.

With the evidence gathering of the impact of air pollution, and the contribution that effective fleet management could play in tackling the issue, a similar approach is needed. Whilst evidence of the links between air quality, the air quality impacts of specific vehicle types, and health outcomes is known, the ability to link the emissions outputs of specific vehicles at specific times as well as the economic cost of such vehicles provides extra insight to make the case for changes in procurement and commissioning.

There is also a need to understand the implications of policy decisions, many of which are unforeseen, relating to air quality, so that the most effective solutions can be prioritised. For instance, Euro emissions ratings have been used as a benchmark for vehicle emissions. However, some of the least polluting vehicles at the upper end of one band may in fact have lower emissions than vehicles at the lower end of the above band. So whilst moving and delivering against the Euro standards may indicate a general progression, this does not always guarantee that this is delivered.

Evidence-led policy making is critical to tackling issues around air quality and noise pollution. Whilst the generic evidence upon which much of this policy is based is useful, further levels of granularity – such as data at the vehicle level – are required to fully understand the implications of policy decisions, so that unintended consequences can be understood.

Such considerations also point to the overarching requirement to embed externalities into decision-making. Whether this be on setting new policies or awarding a contract, if decision makers are not incentivised to consider air quality and noise pollution in their decision making, they will not make decisions based upon its consideration.

Whilst standards such as ISO14001 have gone some way to embedding environmental considerations into decision making, decisions are underpinned by data and the insights that it creates. By improving the availability, quality, legibility, and accessibility of air quality and noise pollution data at an operational level, only then can such issues be considered as part of the decision making process.

At Emsol, we are committed to providing decision makers with the necessary insight that will not just give an overview of their operations and environmental performance, but provide them with the evidence that they need in order to make more permanent changes to operations. We are building a team that will enable us to do this. So if data-driven insights is your thing, and you are passionate about air quality issues, then please contact us. After all, it is lasting change that we are after.

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