Businesses Can Tackle Air Pollution While Recovering From COVID-19


Global Action Plan is launching the Business for Clean Air Initiative, in partnership with a task force that includes the British Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), Uber
and Philips. The charity offers businesses free support as they commit to improving air quality, cutting emissions and cleaning up the air for communities across the UK.

Through a series of webinars, companies will have a chance to exchange tips for a green recovery after the pandemic. The first session is taking place on July 30 and  participants (Boehringer Ingelheim, as well as FTSE100s like Landsec
) will discuss the role of remote working in reducing a company’s air pollution footprint.

“The impending economic turmoil is encouraging short sighted quick fixes that are more detrimental in the long term,” Chris Large, co-CEO at Global Action Plan, says. “This is why we have created the Clean Air Recovery Essentials guide, offering six themes for how companies can get back to business whilst keeping air quality down.”

Large adds that the role of public institutions is key, too. “Businesses can plan better as soon as the Government sets clear ambitions, with measurable targets. Once these targets are set, they are held to account so businesses do not rely on the posts continually moving.”

For instance, special focus is required for UK car companies needing regulations to replace EU emissions standards. “They have not made much progress over the last decade within the current legislation, which has in some cases encouraged damaging and detrimental practices like increasing SUV sales.”

Additionally, a recent survey by the Business for Clean Air task force found that incorporating air pollution in recovery strategies would be welcomed by 74% of respondents. Among them, 85% were able to list at least one specific pollution-reduction measure they want businesses to embrace, from flexible working hours to more bikes or electric cars and vans for delivering goods.

This sentiment is echoed by those who think that clean air is even more important now because coronavirus can affect people’s lungs. Meanwhile, global air quality has seen an improvement since travel restrictions were introduced during the confinement period.

According to the travel comparison service dealchecker, the average density of particles in the atmosphere (PM2.5) in 2019 sat at 72.8 compared to 57.2 in April 2020. Their study analyzed 100 cities around the world and highlighted a reduction of pollution levels in eight out of 10 locations.

European cities have followed in global footsteps. “Lots of countries’ capitals have seen drastic decreases, mainly Stockholm (-63%), Helsinki (-45%), Warsaw (-36%),” the managing director of dealchecker Stephen Molloy says. “These patterns can also be seen across other key capitals such as Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Prague.”

The immediate risk is that PM2.5 levels will start to increase again soon, like data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea) already showed.

“Hopefully, however, people may be able to take elements of the lifestyle changes in the past few months’ into new eco-friendly conscious behavior in the future to help keep PM2.5 and other pollutant levels low,” Molloy adds.

“We’d expect governments to sit up and listen now. There’s proof of a direct correlation between lifestyle factors and pollution levels so it is hard for leaders to turn a blind eye. We think that every single person has a role to play in rebuilding greener societies in small tasks like walking instead of driving, booking eco-conscious holidays, all the way through to the biggest changes in government policies.”


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