Ed Davey – Clean up our air to save lives

On a recent visit to Watford, Ed Davey unveiled the Liberal Democrats’ proposals for a £20billion Community Clean Air fund – part of the party’s £150 billion Green Economic Recovery Plan.

With air pollution causing 40,000 early deaths a year and transport now the country’s biggest source of carbon emissions, the Fund would enable Councils and communities to tackle this and spearhead a local transport revolution

New light rail and tram projects, conversion of bus fleets to hydrogen energy and new council-led clean air zones are three key parts of the plan.

Ed writes about the proposals on the party website:

Our Community Clean Air Fund would let councils and communities invest in the transport systems and options they need, rather than Whitehall and Westminster dictating what’s right.

The Conservatives’ failure to act is shown by the fact that the UK regularly breaks legal limits on air quality in so many towns and cities, and yet Conservative Council after Conservative Council are running away from taking action to clean the air for local people.

Conservative Councils and councillors are even voting against local climate emergency plans and blocking new cycling routes.

Liberal Democrat councils are acting and getting things done.

From Lib Dem run Bath Council introducing a clean air zone in the city centre to the Lib Dem Mayor of Watford pioneering new pay-as-you-go bikes, people can see it’s the Liberal Democrats leading on clean air and the climate.

Our £20 billion Community Clean Air fund will target all transport emissions affecting local communities and the climate, with emergency 3 year plans to transform people’s local transport options, including:

-New walking and cycling routes (£5.5 billion)
-New light rail and tram projects (£4.5 billion)
-Expansion of bus routes – old ones restored and new introduced (£5 billion)
-Hydrogen bus revolution – to convert bus fleets to hydrogen (£2 billion)
-New council-led clean air zones for congested towns and cities (£2 billion)
-Extra electric vehicle charging points (£1 billion)
-With air pollution causing 40,000 early deaths a year and transport now the country’s biggest source of carbon emissions, our strategy will not only boost to the nation’s health, but also tackle the climate emergency too.

* News Meerkat - keeping a look-out for Liberal Democrat news. Meerkat photo by Paul Walter

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  • https://airqualitynews.com/2020/09/08/pm2-5-pollution-did-not-decline-during-lockdown-in-scotland/

    The above link found no decline in what was assumed to be traffic pollution during the lockdown. Scientists are now considering alternative causes. I have no personal view on this but since it is the third time I have read a report with the same conclusions from quite different studies, I think it may be time for a proper investigative study.

    Most of the roadside studies have been justified by the assumption that transport (exhaust emissions, tyres and brake linings) are the source of the particulates but this seems not to be the case because evidence is building that traffic volume is not relevant.

    I would have blamed transport too, but it seems I was wrong. Ed should take note, he may be premature in his analysis.

  • @Peter

    Thanks for highlighting – it’s an interesting study and links to the other studies you mention would be interesting.

    The full paper can be read free on the BMJ website at https://oem.bmj.com/content/77/11/798 and the press release at https://www.stir.ac.uk/news/2020/09/lockdown-did-not-reduce-most-harmful-type-of-air-pollution-in-scotland/

    There seem to be some limitations:
    The paper notes: “Scotland’s relatively low ambient PM2.5 may be related more closely to natural and non-traffic sources and may not therefore have fallen following the introductions of the lockdown measures.” (my emphasis)

    So this *might* apply in more rural Scotland where levels are low to start with but *might* not in other areas.

    It does seem that there is reduction in PM2.5 – actually of 15% in 2020 compared to 2019 (once a one-off metrological event of dust from the Sahara was taken into account) and 11% compared to 2018- it was basically the same as in 2017.

    I am no expert but certainly in 2019, across the UK Government website notes there a substantial peak in April compared to March so it *might* be that PM2.5 go up “normally” in April compared to March.

    The authors do note that NO2 concentrations went down (due to lower traffic) and this is to be welcomed.

    There has been a paper saying that pm2.5 and other pollutants went down in Wuhan and other regions of China – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32872261/

    And media reports that air pollution has reduced in major western cities – https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/air-pollution-halves-in-london-rome-and-milan-as-citizens-go-into-isolation/ and https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/22/world/air-pollution-reduction-cities-coronavirus-intl-hnk/index.html

    But this may also be due to less industrial manufacturing and construction as well as traffic.

    I did though hear – I believe on an episode of Radio 4’s “More or Less” which from memory did verify it that wood-burning stoves “kill” 10,000 people a year.

    So if you have more info that would be interesting.

  • Antony Watts 28th Apr '21 - 8:49am

    This is total pie in the sky stuff. You cannot approach the reality of climate emergency with such proposals.

    We must not present do-goody projects (small rail, trams, bicycles…) with the serious business of addressing the things that emit CO2.

    Today, face it, transport (cars, lorries) emit 28% of our CO2 and it is rising every year. This is one of the key things that must be tackled. Car will not go away, they must be changed, lorries will not go away, they too must be changed.

    So let’s have a earthy LIb Dem policy toward curing this transport emergency

  • @Antony Watts

    … um I would venture even by your own arguments that you are incorrect. One very significant way to reduce diesel/petrol car use is by much better public transport. Every day people are thinking should they buy/own a car and should they use the car they have and the key determinate of that decision is the alternative – can they do their journey as easily and as cheaply by public transport?

    Of course we need national and international government to act on climate change – and that’s not excluded by action by local councils! But also necessary if not sufficient is action by local councils. It’s the old adage – “think globally, act locally” – and there’s a myriad of things that local councils can do to reduce CO2 emissions – and that is best done by electing Lib Dems and Lib Dem councils!

  • @ Michael 1. “Best done by Lib Dem’s and Lib Dem councils”.

    Funny you say that, Michael, your faith and optimism does you credit but sadly the facts don’t bear that out. Between 2010-14, the first four years Lib Dems were in government, enforced cuts in subsidies reduced bus services by 23% in the Uk. As a Lib Dem councillor at the time I remember it well.

  • @Antony Watts
    It became a climate emergency amongst the Guardian readership as a consequence of a nomenclature decision by that newspaper’s editor, no doubt on the basis that a crisis will sell more newspapers than a non-crisis. But that does not make climate change an emergency by any stretch of the imagination.

    If you disagree with me, please produce some explanation or evidence to justify your claim.

  • @David Raw

    We are back to the same arguments! As I have said before Labour left the coalition with no money. OK – it may have been a joke in a private note – but like most such things it illuminates the truth of such matters.

    Overall the arc of public spending under Labour was that they followed Conservative spending plans for their first term. In the second term they announced increases and it wasn’t until the third term that they came in and then in the last few years they threw money around like there was no tomorrow as they knew then that for them in Government there wasn’t. So in most areas if you look at spending during the coalition it was above the average of that under Labour.

    I think it fair to say that under both Labour and Conservative governments – and they provided all but five years of government since the war – and perhaps particularly since 1979 there hasn’t been the investment in public transport – particularly buses that there should have been – and particularly the disastrous Tory privatisation and liberalisation of bus services.

    On climate change – I think actually any fair observer would say that the coalition was the greenest government we have had – and that was in no small measure down to Ed as Secretary of State – big increase in renewables, the feed in tariff for domestic solar panels since axed by the Tories etc. etc.

    Bur perhaps more importantly the elections next week in England are *local* elections and as highlighted there is a lot of very good practice from Lib Dem councils and councillors.

  • @Peter

    Of course a newspaper that says there is nothing wrong in the world today probably doesn’t sell many copies – so we do have to be wary of exaggeration and hype. But… I don’t somehow think that the editor of the Guardian woke up one day and said that “I know I have a jolly good wheeze to sell more papers – let’s invent a climate change crisis.”

    As you know the vast, vast majority of scientists think that the climate is warming, that it is caused by humans and we need to get down to zero carbon emissions in the next 20-30 years. Now there is of course scientific (and political) debate on all three things but this has now essentially been argued out in countless peer reviewed scientific papers. And one of the good things about science is there is a very vigorous debate and they will concede their own limitations in their studies. They may all be wrong and you are of course entitled to take the view that they are all wrong.

    It’s worth listening to the Radio 4 series “how they made us doubt everything.” And how the fossil fuel industry took a leaf out of the tobacco industry on how to spread uncertainty and doubt. No personally I want to hear counter-arguments and make up my mind but it’s clear that the tobacco and fossil fuel used the uncertainty around any scientific finding to protect their industries.

  • @Michael 1
    The editor of the Guardian did just that, almost exactly one year ago, though the motivation was more about alarming the public.

    I agree that most scientists (including me) do think that warming has taken place and that part of it is due to human activity. Most scientists do not believe there is an emergency, either now or in the future. Claims of increased extreme weather and other problems are not supported by evidence. All such events are monitored and recorded by government agencies across the world. All the data is in the public domain.

    I do not listen to the BBC. The Corporation gives a platform to Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg and many other climate activists but will not allow reputable scientists to challenge the more extreme climate claims.

  • Anthony Watts ‘pie in the sky’ comment concerning climate change – demonstrates the difficulties faced by a political party that wishes to tackle this issue. On the one hand election material needs to be punchy and brief to grab the attention of a casual reader, but on the other by being too brief the true seriousness of the problem is easily lost.

    The party’s website promises to: Tackle the climate emergency
    Tackle the climate emergency by generating 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030 and insulating all low-income homes by 2025.

    This is certainly brief – but it does not explain why such action is so desperately needed over the time period stated. It seems to me that a link could have been added where the depth of the problem was explained. From memory, David Attenborough’s video was available at the time. However, for the next manifesto the Dalai Lama/Greta Thunberg feedbackloopsclimate.com website will be available with even more information than it has at present.

    This initiative was launched in mid January and is the best I have seen, although it does have slight glitches on my computer, but I do not know if this because it is old or because the site has been attacked. The information provided would help local councils to know if what they are doing fits with the overall problem.

    If you visit the site you will see that there is a menu in the top right corner providing an introduction and the four key factors involved – the importance of Forests, how the Permafrost is melting, the Atmosphere and the Albedo [effect].

    I think that anyone watching the full presentation [no section is longer than 15 minutes] would agree that the issue makes all other matters pale into insignificance apart, perhaps, from containing Covid and Nuclear war!


  • John, I hardly think that David Attenborough, the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg are the appropriate climate experts to explain climate change to us. Perhaps listening to these people is part of the problem.


    The above link gives a balanced overview from two people who probably know more about the subject than anyone else.

  • @ Peter. Are you a member of the Flat Earth Society as well as being a climate change denier ?

  • @Peter

    You are getting cause and effect reversed.

    “Eleven thousand scientists in 153 countries have declared a climate emergency and warned that “untold human suffering” is unavoidable without huge shifts in the way we live.” – https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/climate-emergency-scientists-emissions-letter-climate-change-a9185786.html

    Indeed fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil knew about climate change and its significant consequences way back in 1977 (and then pent millions sowing doubt about it) – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/

    So, the Guardian updated its style guide for its journalists – but to more accurately reflect reality (OK – as it sees it) as preferred terms – but the original terms are not banned. But it did not become “a climate emergency amongst the Guardian readership as a consequence of a nomenclature decision by that newspaper’s editor”

    It is< a climate emergency and therefore the Guardian changed its preferred style in referring to it.

  • David Raw,

    what have you got against the Flat Earth Society. Responding to criticism in a recent Netflix documentary they have pointed to misrepresentation in the form of scientific fraud.
    “Questions have come up about the light experiment at the end of the film. We point to the following from an account of a self-proclaimed Round Earth proponent who was present at the Jeran event https://www.reddit.com/r/flatearth/comments/7sc4w5/about_the_cringiest_thing_youll_see_today/dt5gzyr/:
    “The Flat Earth Society values scientific integrity and demands direct, conclusive, and repeatable evidence that our Earth is a globe.”
    In a separate piece there is an obituary for “Mad” Mike Hughes.
    “Michael Hughes – inventor, daredevil, and a self-proclaimed madman, has taken one final leap into the sky in a self-constructed steam-powered rocket as part of a Science Channel series he was to star in. He lost his life in a tragic accident. A Guinness World Record holder for the longest limousine ramp jump, Mike never shied away from controversy and danger. It coursed through his veins. His bold, outspoken attitude will be greatly missed by all.
    Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family in these trying times. It is my hope that Mike has found whatever it was he was looking for in this crazy world.
    Godspeed, Michael, you glorious bastard.”

  • Peter Martin 29th Apr '21 - 2:04pm

    “Peter” likes to quote the 3% or so of Climate Scientists who claim Anthropogenic Global Warming isn’t a serious problem. Given that the fossil fuel companies, especially the big US and Australian Coal extractors wish to protect their businesses and are happy to line a few pockets, it’s perhaps surprising that the numbers aren’t greater.

    But even if these 3% are genuine in their opinions what about the other 97%? If 97% of aero engineers decide a certain plane is dangerous, but 3% considered it safe would anyone, in their right senses, want to take a 33-1 chance?

    We could probably find 3% of scientists who would say the effects of cigarette smoking are highly exaggerated or that thalidomide doesn’t cause birth defects etc. Especially if they are funded by tobacco and pharmaceutical companies and want the extent of any problem to be minimised.

  • John Roffey 29th Apr '21 - 2:19pm

    Here is another hard hitting video from George Monbiot from March 2019. In it he describes what is needed to be done if the climate crisis is to be averted.

    I would guess that any YouTube video could be used by the Party since the very act of posting a video on this outlet puts it into the public domain – although I may be wrong. If not I have very little doubt that some arrangement could be reached with GM.

    The reduction in consumerism he calls for might be the reason that Ed Davey or the Policy Committee do not want to be too closely identified with the climate emergency as this might deter a significant section of it supporters. This might be an interesting discussion to be held on LDV?

    In my view GM’s analysis is his strength – but it seems to me that there are a likely to be a number of solutions other than those he suggests.

  • For those who find George Monbiot’s approach too hard nosed – here is Jonathan Porritt’s academically styled – ‘Time to Expose the Evil of Consumerism’. I am afraid the ‘Evil’ is very much aimed at politicians – although he does understand their difficulties!

    I found his lecture, which was given at the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School in December 2017, exposed the problems clearly in just over 30 minutes – highly recommended.

    It also raised a question in my mind. If Jo Grimond were Lib Dems leader today – would the gunfire he encouraged the Party to march towards be the Climate Emergency or Climate Breakdown that JP prefers?

  • John Roffey 1st May '21 - 7:54am

    From the Guardian: Climate crisis: our children face wars over food and water, EU deputy warns:

    Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the EU commission, said that if social policy and climate policy are not combined, to share fairly the costs and benefits of creating a low-carbon economy, the world will face a backlash from people who fear losing jobs or income, stoked by populist politicians and fossil fuel interests.

    He said: “It’s not just an urgent matter – it’s a difficult matter. We have to transform our economy. There are huge benefits, but it’s a huge challenge. The biggest threat is the social one. If we don’t fix this, our children will be waging wars over water and food. There is no doubt in my mind.”


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