Blog : Clean Air Act

Let’s stop being dumb when it comes to planning Smart Cities

If the term ‘Smart Cities’ feels like it’s been around for ages that’s probably because it has. Although local authorities are starting to understand what smart cities are, confusion still abounds – they are not one size fits all as a smart city is essentially a set of building blocks brought together to deliver additional value. The challenge is knowing which blocks to bring together, when, why, and how.

It is clear that many are still struggling with the “Why”. Key building blocks like smart parking are well understood, we now have smart city standards, and we will soon have a CCS procurement framework; but many are still failing to look at Smart City solutions and services holistically and are therefore not full grasping the additional value attainable through joined up thinking.

The elevator pitch for Smart Cities rejoices in how silos are broken down through connectivity and service integration. Yet despite this, procurement for full fibre rollout continues in parallel to procurement for EV charging, heat networks, and so forth. All of which are potential components of a Smart City, all have the capability to be smart in their own right, but crucially all of which could be integrated.

So why bother to join up the various strands of a Smart City? Well, consider the underlying infrastructure: fibre, power and heat all need to go in the ground so if deployment is co-ordinated, through shared trenching, disruption can be significantly reduced.

Furthermore, fibre rollout requires street cabinets, a number of which will be powered; this combination of trenching and power is ideal for EV rollout. Hence benefits can be achieved, for example, by designing the fibre route and powered cabinet positioning via taxi ranks and parking to support rapid charger deployment. Or consider heat networks, these require power, as do fast chargers. Can benefits be gleamed from co-locating e.g. around bus depots or charging hubs?

Due to increasing densification in city centres it is getting ever more difficult to reinforce the underlying power grid to meet demand. This can lead to situations where development potential is subdued by the prohibitive cost of providing power. However, operating heat, power and EV charging as part of an integrated energy system has the potential to alleviate some of these issues.

The above measures, coupled with adoption of new technologies, may well see power bottlenecks eradicated completely. SSE is currently trialling Graphene-based solar generation that can be panel, glass or building cladding. It has an efficiency of circa 54%. This is around three times the world best output from standard PV panels. Using this technology, buildings will become net generators, supporting neighbouring load, enabling rollout of Rapid EV charging and providing the power needed for heat pumps to warm the buildings. However, this can only be achieved by joining up silos through the introduction of smart systems that control assets, smooth peaks and troughs and manage customer behaviours.

Moving away from energy, more or less all cities have aspirations to rollout ultra-fast broadband yet the cost of reaching every home is challenging. To address this SSE Enterprise Telecoms has taken the innovative step of running fibre through the sewers, thus providing significant discount on trenching costs and improving viability. By breaking out of the sewer at key points and connecting to street lights the signal can be propagated using microwave technology daisy chaining down the street and subsequently beaming out into the home. Although not fibre to the home, the bandwidth deployable will be substantial.

Giving fibre investors the rights to commercialise the lamp posts improves the business case further by introducing wider smart city revenue potential such as 4G infill and 5G. Depending on how the deal is structured, this could also develop a further revenue stream for the authority. Where authorities have significant funding challenges, the fibre initiative could be integrated with a Lighting as a Service model (which sees the LED street light conversion taken off balance sheet). Both are safe asset investments and as a combined offer the potential is substantial.

Linking such fibre initiatives with smart lighting platforms presents further opportunities. Smart lighting providers, such as SSE’s Mayflower, are extending their offering into additional services such as smart parking, assisted living and air quality monitoring in order to exploit their underlying narrow band communications networks. For example, narrow band for sensors and monitors to support assisted living and fibre to support video GP appointments, diagnostics and counselling. Such communications into the home can alleviate loneliness by enabling social prescribing and befriending volunteer networks.

To answer the “Why” and fully grasp smart city benefits takes vision. The final challenge is then the “How” and most notably from a political and not technical viewpoint. Smart city building blocks span silos. To bring them together requires these silos to be broken down, which in turn requires strong leadership from the top.


“Cities making the difference—Giant batteries and power for the people after Oxford wins £81m in green funding

Author: Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Safer and Greener Environment, Oxford City Council


We have 11 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to dent the mood of complacency that still stalks the corridors of national governments. Climate change may be a global challenge, but here in Oxford we have never left it to governments to fix and today my council can share news about £81 million of funding to accelerate our journey to a Zero Carbon Oxford and make our Zero Emission Zone a practical reality.

A £41 million project—which will include giant batteries with a total capacity of 50MW to balance more intermitted renewable energy on the grid—is a game changer for the city and a win-win for everyone. Whether you cycle, walk, drive, hop on the bus, or ride in taxis, everyone living, visiting, and working in Oxford will benefit from cleaner air and a faster journey to Zero Carbon.

A new Energy SuperHub consisting of the world’s largest commercial hybrid energy storage facility, electric vehicle (EV) charging points and ground source heat pumps is set to be built in Oxford, making it a model for cities around the world to cut carbon and improve air quality. My city council will invest some of the £41 million secured on new electric bin collection trucks, sweepers, tippers and vans. We are taking a hand-on-heart approach to how we deliver public services and electrifying more of our fleet is key.

The funding will support the Council to offer a ‘Try before you Buy’ scheme for the city’s Black Cab drivers. Our Black Cab drivers are a credit to the city, moving people around safely and working closely with the Council to make the Zero Emission Zone a success. Together we want to create a green and clean Black Cab fleet with the iconic London look, but drivers are eager for support to clean our air and earn a living. When taxi drivers aren’t on the road, they aren’t earning, so the City Council has begun servicing electric taxis to ensure drivers need not take long trips away from Oxford to get their cars repaired. By giving this practical ‘Try before you buy’ support, we can speed up our Black Cab fleet’s journey from 0% zero-emission capable to 100% by 2025, as provided for by our Zero Emission Zone.

Money-saving ground source heat pumps will subsequently be installed in around 300 buildings and homes to halve their carbon footprint from heating and reduce operating costs by 25% with innovative heat pumps that can be controlled via smart phones. Approximately 100 ultra-rapid and fast chargers will be installed initially at a public charging station on the A34 and at the council’s main vehicle depots. The network will also run past the city’s two main bus depots, providing the opportunity for their fleets to go electric.

This £41m once-in-a-generation downpayment on Oxford moves the Council closer to achieving this vision. Leading businesses are investing in Oxford because they recognise that we’re trialling new technologies exactly like Energy Superhub Oxford. Today’s announcement allows us as a city to embrace our technological future by working with partners in a consortium led by Pivot Power which consists of Habitat Energy, Kensa, redT Energy and the University of Oxford.

In other good news shared today, Oxfordshire will receive £40 million of funding to take back control of energy. Project LEO will return power to the people, so that we can generate clean energy for our own neighbourhoods. By creating opportunities for communities to trade the energy they generate, use, and store at a local level, Project LEO will empower people, companies, and local areas to build an energy system that works for people and planet.

The project will trial a smart local energy system – or ‘smart grid’ – which explores how the growth in local renewables, electric vehicles, battery storage, and demand side response can be supported and help in reducing charges to consumers. The system will balance local demand with local supply help test markets, assess the benefits of flexibility to the energy system, and, crucially, show the potential for people and communities to become active energy citizens in the future.

Critically, Project LEO will enable Oxfordshire based social enterprise, the Low Carbon Hub (which my council belongs to), to grow its existing portfolio of 40+ energy projects bringing another £16 million of community energy projects to the County.

Oxford City Council has been awarded £1.6m for its role in the project from the Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, as part of the successful £10.26m bid for the Oxford element of the overall £41m project. On top of this funding, Project LEO has been awarded £13.8m from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and will be supported by £26m of private funding from the project partners. Carefully targeted government money can make a real difference to local clean energy projects. Our hope is that other councils will seek to follow Oxford’s example and learn from our projects. We all need to have smart clean energy as soon as possible.

By building partnerships to achieve more together than we can alone, my council is innovating to tackle our climate and public health crises. Two of the most radical steps that a council can take are embracing new technologies and welcoming them into our communities, and also driving wider debate about our energy future by testing new models that empower citizens. Our councils are not prepared to kick the can down a shortening road—every year that substantial action on air pollution and carbon neutrality is delayed is another year when hundreds of people will die preventable deaths and our planet suffers. That’s why these investments announced today aren’t just a game-changer—they’re also a life- and planet-saver.

Empowering local authorities in the clean energy revolution

Author: Carl Ennis – Managing Director, Siemens Energy Management

At the end of January, I spoke at a UK100 conference which brought together the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Leeds Climate Commission and UK100 to discuss how local authorities can be empowered to create a local energy system which is fit for purpose for its residents and meets climate change objectives.


The power to make this change is now well and truly with local authorities and with the right funding, from either private investment or central government, there are many ways they can position themselves as a leader in this shift.


It is well documented that the energy system in the UK has moved from centralised to decentralised power, and now more than a quarter of the electricity consumed across the UK comes from renewable sources.


This is one way we can shift to a cleaner, and greener economy, but more still needs to be done to meet climate objectives as well as the future increase in demand for electricity from the electrification of transport.


Siemens has the products, engineering know how and skills to be able to do this. From transmitting the electricity produced from a windfarm, to making sure it comes out of a plug socket we can help.


But we also know that a one size fits all approach isn’t the right way to go. Each local authority will have its own set of challenges and the options for generating their own electricity will depend on this.


What we do know is that risk is not something any local authority has the appetite, or finances to take on. De-risking a project and providing a clear business case, which may attract private financial backing will give local authorities the confidence to invest. Using clear examples of where there have been cost savings, emissions reduction and the time it would take to pay back the project is vital.


We’re currently working on an EU funded, Horizon 2020 project called Triangulum in Manchester. The energy strand is looking to create innovation to make the city’s Oxford Road corridor a ‘Smart Quarter’, with three key partners Manchester City Council, University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.


The aims of these innovations are to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions, flatten peak demand on the power network and increase the use of renewable and low carbon energy within the city.


Projects such as Triangulum will not change the world alone though. They need to be scaled up across a whole city to have an impact. Our conservative estimates show that if one part of the project, the Central Controller, were to be scaled across Manchester, upwards of 42,000tCO2 could be saved each year – the equivalent of taking 18,0001 cars off the road.


But success isn’t just about selling technology, although that is helpful for my business. It’s about an attitude shift and how people interact and adapt these technologies and systems. Just think about how you consume energy in the home – you know that you should turn the lights off when you leave a room as it will cost you money, that servicing your boiler will make it more efficient. Doing this also means emissions aren’t being created.  But, when you do this on a much larger scale – across a hospital, or even a city, the benefits are much greater.


But we need to bridge the gap between small scale projects, such as Triangulum, and larger city and even county wide projects. We know that 85% of the kit we will need for a smart system is in the ground today – we’re just not using it efficiently. That could be because there isn’t the confidence to invest – but we need to change that if we’re going to decarbonise at the pace needed to meet the goals set.


The latest initiative from BEIS, which builds on its funding of Local Energy Strategies developed by LEPs and local authorities over the last couple of years, is the allocation of £4.8M to create five Local Energy Hubs across England.  These Energy Hubs will provide additional capacity for LEPs to take a more active role in the area’s energy ecosystem, addressing the challenges and commercialising the opportunities related to energy generation, storage, distribution and supply (including heat networks).  This is implicitly underpinned by the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge of achieving clean growth.


Local government is in a great place to enable this transition and we can together work with these Energy Hubs to create an energy action plan which would provide the business case to de-risk investment, as well as giving them a bespoke plan for their communities.


Forward thinking local authorities who understand that working together across public and private sector boundaries are the only way to address the grand challenges set in the Industrial Strategy. The provision of energy doesn’t stop at county borders and making sure all parts of the country are looking at what they can do to enable their communities to play a part in the energy transition will be the way forward.


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Clean Air Asks & Priorities

  • Adopt World Health Organization recommended air pollution limits as legally binding targets to be achieved by 2030 to guarantee the highest health standards that are supported by improved monitoring that assesses air quality and the powers to enforce.


  • Create an independent watchdog that is adequately funded and empowered to hold the Government to account, including through legal action and the levelling of fines, and review and be able to require action needed to reduce air pollution from Government and other public bodies such as Highways England.


  • Grant Local Authorities the powers they need, with necessary resources, to deliver zero emission transport networks.


  • Enable the setting and enforcement of ambitious standards for local air quality, including for solid fuel stoves. Including powers for regional authorities to control emissions from other fixed sources, such as boilers and combined heat and power sources as well as set energy efficiency standards including for existing buildings.


  • Establish adequately resourced local powers to set and enforce emission zones for Non-Road Mobile Machinery.


  • Require co-ordinated action from private and public bodies to improve air quality, such as: ports, Highways England, Network Rail, Homes England, Environment Agency and Directors of Public Health, and provide necessary resource to enable activity.

Leeds PIPES: the most ambitious new DH scheme under construction in the country.

George Munson, Senior Project Manager – Sustainable Energy and Air Quality & Resources and Housing, Leeds City Council

I’ve been working on plans for District Heating in Leeds for around 10 years.  Aside from small local schemes the first tangible result was the Leeds Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF). The primary purpose was to deal with municipal waste, but we took the opportunity through procurement to ensure it was able to provide the heating for a District Heating scheme, by including a grid control valve on the steam turbine, so we could bleed heat off in future.

It took around 3 years with support from DECC (The Department of Energy and Climate Change – as was), HNDU (the Heat Network Development Unit), consultants, local stakeholders and a huge amount of internal work to identify a potentially investable project. It then took a further 2 years to procure, contract and secure investment, and a further 18 months of construction of Leeds PIPES by Vital Energi.

  • Now Leeds PIPES is a £35m investment in 2 energy centres, over 16.5km pipework, 1440 flats and 2 commercial connections.
  • It has an initial heat load of 15GWh, with the potential to grow to over 100GWh.
  • It is financed by ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), LGF (Local Growth Fund) with a £10m investment from the council’s HRA (Housing Revenue Account) and a further investment of £17m in the network by Leeds City Council itself.

This leads to the question – why would the council invest £17m during austerity?

It can be convincingly argued that it saves CO2, improves air quality, tackles fuel poverty and supports clean new developments.  It also completes a commitment to use our waste to keep vulnerable people warm. However, despite all of these clear benefits, £17m can still be considered a relatively risky investment for a cash-strapped council.  The simple answer to the question of why the council would fund this project is that no-one else will. The risk profile and low returns mean that private finance will not be willing to make this kind of investment.

We believe strongly that cities must go low carbon and a critical part of this is to decarbonise heat.  This was a once in a generation opportunity, without local authority investment, this would have been missed. It is local authorities who are able to take a longer view and invest in projects with long-term benefits. It is the City Council which has a responsibility for the people of Leeds, valuing the reduction in fuel poverty and the improved quality of life. And it is local authorities who have the levers: we run highways, local planning, housing, economic development – and we are trusted and long term. In short, local authorities have advantages that no private company can match.

The issue is that in order to achieve the huge potential for benefits from heat networks private investment is required. Our strategy is to grow the network in two more main phases, city centre this year, Southbank within 3 years, and then when we have a trading history and a pipeline of future customers seek private finance. Only at this point will the network be de-risked sufficiently to attract low cost finance.  We are taking risks and do not want to cash-in too early. Government seems to be at a heat crossroads: they are still technology agnostic, not wanting to pick winners, but we know that we can’t hit future carbon commitments with gas. The electric vehicle revolution has started, placing more demand on the grid and so action must be taken now.  New nuclear is beset with problems and so my advice to government would be to control the controllable: learn from Scandinavia and choose district heating for cities using the below criteria:

  • Use planning powers to create DH zones
  • Encourage private/public municipal energy companies
  • Invest capital to make these grow
  • View the Heat Network Implementation Programme as the start, not the end – it’s welcome but the potential is far bigger than HNIP can possibly deliver.

What needs to change?

Andrew Cooper, Green Party Councillor in Kirklees:

What needs to change?

The short pithy answer is of course lots and quickly. The IPCC Report told us that we have only 12 years to get a grip on carbon emissions as if there wasn’t enough evidence already. What frustrates me is the lack of urgency from policymakers on reducing emissions. It is like we have all the time in the world and sadly we simply don’t. We are not treating this as the climate emergency that it clearly is.

The final statement at COP24 in Katowice last December, which the UK Government signed up to, called for a much stronger relationship between national governments and Local Government on achieving the Paris Climate goals. There now needs to be a genuine and much deeper partnership between Local and National Government to work together to reduce emissions. That simply isn’t there at the moment and we need it. Used imaginatively Councils can be a swift and effective tool to deliver programmes to reduce emissions and engage citizens. We have Nationally Determined Contributions towards achieving the Paris Climate goals why not Locally Determined Contributions or Regionally Determined Contributions.

Housing and specifically new build housing is within most councils’ remit as planning authorities. We can make a difference. In July Government told us that Councils could set our own energy efficiency standards in our Local Plans for new housing. That’s good and I am pushing for the Passivhaus Standard in Supplementary Planning Guidance to the Kirklees Local Plan. If Kirklees agrees it and government allows it and I succeed, then that will be one Local Authority out of hundreds. Why doesn’t government just improve building regulations and actually properly enforce them with an independent publicly managed Building Control system to ensure their quality of build and energy performance?

It’s not just hew homes but the ones that already exist that pose one of our biggest challenges. We need to rapidly improve the energy efficiency of the existing homes to reduce energy demand, with all the health and income benefits that would come with that. So we desperately need a mass retrofit programme. The easy stuff has largely been done in terms of loft and cavity wall insulation. It is the solid wall properties with attic rooms that we need to address with internal drylining, room in roof insulation and external cladding where appropriate and we need to aim for the Enerphit standard for retrofit. Yes it needs paying for and a combination of ramping up the Energy Company Obligation and use of general taxation is what is required. We can spend countless billions on HS2 and the expensive dangerous folly that is Hinckley C but wouldn’t it be better to invest those funds in a programme like this that would directly help millions of people, with substantial additional benefits.

So how can we find the necessary funding to help achieve our low carbon ambitions? Financing ambitious carbon reduction projects is always a challenge and because government policy is constantly shifting it means that innovative projects have to react to whatever works in the current policy context. Before the Feed In Tariff  Kirklees helped fund solar PV schemes for householders by placing a second charge on the property to pay for installations. Back in 2009 this was the Winner of the British Renewable Energy Awards. The Feed in tariff made this approach unnecessary but now it’s going it could be revived as a way of supporting household installations. Many carbon reduction schemes make financial sense and have short payback periods such as low energy lighting schemes that often have payback periods of less than 2 years. When considering projects such as a switch in Council vehicle fleets to electric the business case has been made in Kirklees on the basis of lower revenue costs in terms of fuel and servicing. We also need to challenge assertions that higher environmental standards mean higher costs. With the price of modular construction homes built to the passivhaus standard, for instance, are rapidly dropping in comparison with homes built to current building regulation standards, we should ensure that information on costs for the lower carbon option are made on the basis of complete information not a partial case designed to rule it out.

We need to reboot and re-energise the mass solar PV sector and give it a sustainable future with no chopping and changing of Government policy every 6 months. This would enable it to be a mass market product again but this time with a strong focus on community owned renewables and energy storage.

The effective ban on onshore wind projects needs to be lifted. It is ludicrous that our cheapest form of renewable energy is basically a non-starter and if we do re-energise it we need to encourage more publicly owned and community owned renewables.

Renewable heat and Combined Heat and Power need to have a much stronger focus from government. I’m not a big fan of the incineration of waste but it’s not just the waste that goes into these that I object to but the waste heat going up the chimneys. Some great work is going on in Leeds and other authorities, but it is not the norm. It is not mainstream.

We need to stop subsidising fossil fuels. We hear all this talk from some politicians about the renewable sector having to stand on its own two feet in the energy market, yet we subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of £12 billion/year and renewables £8.3 billion/year. The balance is wrong and doesn’t reflect where Government support is needed. Local Government and wider public bodies need to divest from fossil fuels which if we are serious about addressing emissions will become worthless stranded assets (according to the Governor of the Bank of England). Some have already done so, others need to like the West Yorkshire Pension Fund for instance.

I’d love to see a mass tree-planting project with large scale civic engagement, and I hope the Northern Forest proposal becomes that. Every school child in the UK should be given the chance to plant a tree.

The revolution in electric vehicles needs to be accelerated and Councils and large fleet operators incentivised to act more swiftly with infrastructure and in their own procurement. Leeds is doing well with 200 electric vehicles, but there are others who are lagging behind.

Fracking. We need to keep it in the ground. Ban it like so many other civilised countries in the world have and Scotland.

We need to ensure we do these things but focus on those on the lowest incomes first. We don’t just save the world, we must create a better world.

Do all this and it will be a good start.

City Leaders across country join forces to call for diesel scrappage fund worth up to £3,500 to each car and van driver.

A group of city and council leaders from across the country have announced their support for a nationwide scheme to help rid our streets and roads of the most polluting diesel cars, vans and buses.


The mayors and political leaders, who collectively represent 20 million people, signed up to the pledge in advance of the #LoveCleanAir summit convened by The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the cities network UK100 at Tate Modern on Valentine’s Day 2019. At the summit, political leaders signed pledges promising to establish the toughest air pollution targets in the world, linked to WHO limits and to create an independent clean air watchdog. [link to story 1]


The event was attended by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and the Chief Executive of the NHS Simon Stevens. Asked about the plans for a national scrappage scheme, Mr Gove said “We’re going to make sure that the Treasury hears loud and clear the united chorus that we need to do even more to make sure that our air is healthy and clean.”


The scheme, which would be targeted at low income families and small businesses, would provide a £2,000 credit towards an ultra-low emission car for anyone scrapping an older, polluting diesel car registered before 2015.


Alternatively, people would be offered credit towards free or cheaper public transport, access to free car clubs or bike hire and purchase schemes. For small businesses, there would be a £3,500 credit for those scrapping a diesel vehicle registered before 2016 to buy a new ultra low emission van or minibus.


Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “We know that low income families need a bit of extra help to do the right thing, and are often those most affected by toxic fumes. A national scrappage fund would support hundreds of thousands of people and small businesses to move from older polluting vehicles into clean transport, cycling and walking so we can all love clean air.”


It would be up to local areas to manage the scheme which would be targeted at areas with Clean Air Zones, but research by UK100 shows it would take 300,000 of the most polluting cars off the road, 171,000 of the most polluting vans and potentially even retrofit 18,000 buses to make them ultra low emission, bringing the total to nearly half a million vehicles (484,000).


Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “If we’re going to tackle the health crisis and social injustice caused by air pollution it is vital and only fair that a national vehicle scrappage scheme is funded and supported by the government.”


The research by UK100 shows that the scheme would cost approximately £1.5bn, based on an adaptation of a TfL proposal, and could be funded by savings identified in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy 2019 of £1.7bn annually.


As part of the package, £260 million in London would pay to take 130,000 high polluting vehicles off the roads, and in Manchester £200 million could take all private vehicles that do not meet air quality standards off the road and offer everyone scrapping their old car free public transport.


The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Air pollution is linked to the equivalent of 1,200 early deaths each year in Greater Manchester alone. Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities are showing leadership in developing a Clean Air Plan. But we urgently need government to guarantee the right level of powers and funding to help us tackle the scale of the problem without damaging our local economies. That includes adequate funding so we can help businesses make the change to cleaner vehicles.”


Signatories to calls for £1,5bn national vehicle renewal fund

  • Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London;
  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester;
  • Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region;
  • Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region;
  • Cllr Adam Larke, Deputy City Mayor, Leicester
  • Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council;
  • Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority;
  • Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council;
  • Cllr Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council;
  • Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council;
  • Cllr Alex Ganotis, Leader of Stockport Council and Greater Manchester Green City Region Lead;
  • Cllr James Lewis, Deputy Leader, Executive Board Member for Resources and Sustainability, Leeds City Council;
  • Cllr Andrew Waller, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for the Environment, City of York Council;
  • Cllr James Noakes, Cabinet Member – Streetscene, Transport & Highways and Air Quality, Liverpool City Council;
  • Cllr Sally Longford, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, Nottingham City Council.

City leaders representing 20 million people sign up to world’s most ambitious clean air plan

On Valentine’s Day 2019, UK100 and the Mayor of London brought together a cross party group of mayors and council leaders from across England to agree the world’s most ambitious clean air plan.

With representatives from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield and Bristol, the #LoveCleanAir summit, which was supported by Unicef UK, hammered out an agreement that would include the world’s toughest air pollution targets alongside new powers and resources to reduce pollution from vehicles, agriculture and industry.

Attendees at the National Clean Air Summit who collectively represented over 20 million people, discussed their concerns directly with the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, the Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock and the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

Asked about the plans, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said he hoped to be able to agree to the plan “soon” and that “we’re going to make sure that the Treasury hears loud and clear the united chorus that we need to do even more to make sure that our air is healthy and clean.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Our country’s filthy air is a national disgrace that shortens lives, damages our lungs, and severely impacts our NHS. City leaders across the country are united in raising the alarm about the dangers posed by poor air quality. I know Michael Gove and Matt Hancock both share my commitment to clean up our filthy air and protect the health of future generations – but for this to happen they must recognise the scale of this issue, dip in their pockets and urgently match the ambition of our city leaders.”


In addition, the summit saw calls for a new national scrappage scheme worth £1.5bn to remove the most polluting cars, vans and buses from our roads. [link to story 2] and an announcement from the Mayor of London that he would double the number of vehicles eligible for the scrappage scheme in London before the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We urgently need government to guarantee the right level of powers and funding to help us tackle the scale of the problem without damaging our local economies. That includes adequate funding so we can help businesses make the change to cleaner vehicles. Without this support we won’t be able to do what’s required to clean up our air, keep our region an attractive, sustainable and healthy place to live and work and – ultimately – save lives.”
Participants also pressed ministers to set up an independent clean air watchdog with the powers and resources to hold national Government to account.

School children from Henry Maynard Primary in Walthamstow joined the start of the summit to explain how polluted air affects them and why they #LoveCleanAir.


Polly Billington, director of UK100, added: “Air pollution is a national health crisis. Government should work in partnership with local leaders by providing new powers and adequate funding: that will make a real difference to drive urgent and effective action. Many councils and mayors are acting, but an extra £1.5bn is needed to support people and businesses to switch from older polluting vehicles into low emission transport, cycling and walking so we can all love clean air. We also a need a new clean air law including tougher, legally binding WHO air pollution limits and an independent watchdog that will hold Government to account.”


The city leaders and environmental groups who attended the #LoveCleanAir summit at Tate Modern called for the Government’s proposed Environment Bill to include the following provisions:

  • Adopt World Health Organisation recommended air pollution limits as legally binding targets to be achieved by 2030to guarantee the highest health standards that are supported by improved monitoring that assesses air quality and the powers to enforce.


  • Create an independent watchdog that is adequately funded and empowered to hold the Government to account, including through legal action and the levelling of fines, and review and be able to require action needed to reduce air pollution from Government and other public bodies such as Highways England.


  • Grant Local Authorities the powers they need, with necessary resources, to deliver zero emission transport networks.


  • Enable the setting and enforcement of ambitious standards for local air quality, including for solid fuel stoves. Including powers for regional authorities to control emissions from other fixed sources, such as boilers and combined heat and power sources as well as set energy efficiency standards including for existing buildings.


  • Establish adequately resourced local powers to set and enforce emission zones for Non-Road Mobile Machinery such as construction, industry and agricultural equipment.


  • Require co-ordinated action from private and public bodies to improve air quality, such as: ports, Highways England, Network Rail, Homes England, Environment Agency and Directors of Public Health, and provide necessary resource to enable activity


List of the signatories:

  • Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region
  • Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
  • Councillor Ian Ward, Leader, Birmingham City Council
  • Councillor James Lewis, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council
  • Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool City Council
  • Cllr Adam Paynter Leader, Cornwall County Council
  • Sarah Muckle, Director of Public Health, Bradford Metropolitan District Council
  • Cllr Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor of Bristol
  • Cllr Adam Clarke, Deputy City Mayor, Leicester City Council
  • Cllr Toby Neal, Cabinet Member – Community Protection, Nottingham City Council
  • Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader, Southampton City Council
  • Cllr Susan Brown, Leader, Oxford City Council
  • Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader, Newcastle City Council
  • Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader, Cambridge City Council
  • Cllr Tim Warren, Leader, Bath and North East Somerset Council

Tom Hayes: Plans for Zero Emission Zone in Oxford race ahead in bid to cut emissions

We all have the right to clean air, yet millions of people across the UK are breathing toxic air on a daily basis. A recent report found that outdoor air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths in the UK each year, and health experts warn that there is no safe level for pollutants. Toxic air affects every one of us, from the time that we are in the womb and through to old age, though some are more vulnerable, including those on the lowest incomes.

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Waseem Zaffar: Cleaning up our air for future generations

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, reflects on the work the authority is doing to tackle a national public health crisis on a local level



Turn on the tap at home or in your workplace and you can be sure that what comes out will be safe to drink. We take clean drinking water for granted – though so many others around the world can’t -because we view it as a basic human right rather than a privilege.

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