Air quality figures offer hope but not clean bill of health.

POLICIES to improve air quality in the UK over the past 40 years have led to significant reductions in pollution and associated mortality rates, according to a recent study. Research led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has charted the emission levels of air pollutants in the UK between 1970 and 2010, a period when there was a raft of national and European legislation to tackle pollution.

HeraldScotland: Researchers say more should be done to reduce harmful particulates.Researchers say more should be done to reduce harmful particulates.
Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, a co-author of the study, said: “This study highlights the substantial improvements in air quality we have experienced over four decades, as well as the risks that air pollution still poses to public health in the UK. Concerted action is needed by the Government, local authorities, businesses and individuals to further improve air quality and protect human health.”

The scientists found that over the 40-year period, annual emissions of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and non-methane volatile organic compounds reduced by between 58% and 93%. Emissions of
ammonia fell by 17% until 2010 but have increased slightly since then.

The study estimated that mortality rates attributed to fine particular matter and nitrogen dioxide pollutants declined by 56% and 44% respectively. The estimated mortality rate related to pollution from ground-level ozone (O3) – which can damage the lungs – fell by 24% between 1990 and 2010. However, those involved in the research stressed that tackling air pollution in the UK remains an ongoing challenge. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations are still often above legal limits in many urban areas and levels of ammonia emissions are increasing.

Edward Carnell of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, lead author of the study, said: “Advances over the past 40 years, such as the three-way catalytic converter for cars and equipment to reduce sulphur and nitrogen dioxide emissions from large power plants have contributed to significant reductions in emission levels and therefore improved public health. However, it is legislation that has driven these technological improvements.”

Aldi steps up efforts to flush out excessive use of plastic.

HeraldScotland:

SUPERMARKET group Aldi, which trialled selling vegetables in its Scottish stores without plastic packing earlier this year, has announced that it will remove the packaging from toilet rolls at 174 of its outlets in the UK.

Aldi will sell four-packs of its Luxury Toilet Paper wrapped in paper in stores in the North East of England and the Midlands from next month and if the trial is successful, it will roll out the new packaging nationwide. The firm says this will save an estimated 935 tonnes of plastic annually.

This is the latest in a series of plastic pledges unveiled in March as part of an update to the company’s sustainability strategy. This includes a ban on single-use plastic bags and a commitment to ensure all packaging on its own-label products is reusable, recyclable or compostable before 2022.

Aldi says a six-week pilot in Scotland in March this year reduced more than three tonnes. The trial focused on five  of the supermarket’s cabbage and cauliflower varieties.

Last year the company phased out black plastic trays on four of its fresh produce lines and replaced them with clear, recyclable alternatives.

Governor of Oregon in move to go it alone on climate change.

HeraldScotland: Oregon is one of the country’s most geographically diverse statesOregon is one of the country’s most geographically diverse states

In the US, the Democratic Governor of Oregon Kate Brown said this week she was prepared to use her executive power to lower carbon emissions after a nine-day Republican walkout that derailed the proposed climate legislation and plunged the state into a political crisis with a standoff between liberal cities and residents of rural areas.

Democrats say that the bill is critical to slowing the onset of climate change, which has been blamed for drought in Oregon plus an extensive toxic algal bloom off the state’s coast in 2015 that devastated the west coast shellfish industry from California to Alaska.

Republican state lawmakers, who had left the state, eventually returned to the Oregon Senate late last week after walking out over the carbon emissions bill that would be the second such legislation in the US and which would require businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Brown said she would present lawmakers with proposed “modifications” to the plan but that she was prepared to take the matter into her own hands if she still can’t find a path forward, adding that while working on legislation was her preferred approach, “given the uncertainty that now permeates Oregon’s political system, I am also directing my staff and agencies to explore alternative paths.”

Construction priorities will shift as heatwaves become common.

HeraldScotland:

THE heatwave that subjected much of Europe to furnace-like conditions and resulted in fatalities in France, Italy and Spain has prompted fresh debate over how much of the problem can be attributed to climate change – and how much our current approach to technologies such as construction needs to change.

On Tuesday the World Weather Attribution group of scientists said that man-made climate change probably made the heatwave, in which southern France experienced a national record 45.9°C, 4°C hotter than it would otherwise have been.

Their report also said that climate change had made the record-breaking surge in heat at least five times more likely than previously while the World Meteorological Organization claimed last week that 2015-2019 was set to be the hottest five-year period on record.

It said the European heatwave was “absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Reaction in the UK came from scientists who included Professor Len Shaffrey, NCAS Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, who said: “The global rise in temperatures means the probability that an extreme heatwave will occur is also increasing … climate change has at least doubled the probability of extremes such as the 2018 European heatwave.”

Dr Anastasia Mylona, Head of Research at The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, pointed to the implications for industry and called for fundamental changes in the way that buildings are designed.

“Our building regulations currently focus entirely on keeping homes warm in the winter, but there is no requirement to consider how to keep them cool in the summer,” she said. “Buildings are complex engineering structures and we need to design them both to keep us warm and keep us cool,” she added.

“This is possible but it needs a comprehensive redesign of our building regulations. This is happening now and the regulations on thermal insulation and ventilation are currently being revised.”

Scientists believe that climate change had a significant role to play in 2003, with 70% of the French heatwave deaths then attributed to human-induced climate change but think the death toll in the current heatwave may well be lower as France and other countries have significantly improved their emergency plans.

HeraldScotland:

The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email stephen.mctaggart@heraldandtimes.co.uk