The Green Agenda: Lib Dems in Business dinner

The environment was our theme at the Liberal Democrats in Business dinner in Oxford last night (after a session of polling-day phone banking for Sarah Olney!).

We were pleased to welcome as speakers Baroness Kate Parminter, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader in the Lords and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Dr Imad Ahmed of the Department of Earth Sciences, Oxford University.

Dr Ahmed spoke of recent research into nano-particles in air pollution and how they affect our brains. The study, and how air pollution is a possible cause of Alzheimer’s, has been reported here in the UK and around the world.

Just in the news today is reporting of a move by major cities to ban diesel vehicles. This is due to their production of particulate matter (PM) and nitrous oxide (NOx). Dr Ahmed, in his talk, showed pictures of the effect of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on the brain.

The link between our health and the air we breathe was also made by Kate Parminter. Baroness Parminter spoke to us on environmental policy and what we should be doing now.

Baroness Parminter suggested two main focus points: developing the green economy and green jobs; and linking the benefits of caring for our environment to our well-being. Caring for our soil gives us better quality of food to eat; caring for our water gives us clean beaches and good drinking water; caring for our air improves all of our health and well-being.

Oxford is highly polluted – clean air has been championed by Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder who measured the Oxford City Centre air and found severe levels of pollution. Roz Smith, Oxfordshire County Councillor, asked Dr Ahmed whether meters were available which could test for nano-particles such as PM2.5. They are not, but this would be a great green-economy initiative for a small business out there.

Lib Dems have a real opportunity to push the green agenda, building on what we achieved in Coalition (establishing the Green Investment Bank, investing in green jobs, funding renewable energy, protecting bees and biodiversity). Let’s be the party that protects our air, water, soil and biodiversity for future generations; and that builds a green economy with zero-carbon homes, a strong renewable energy infrastructure and green vehicles for the future.

The next Liberal Democrats in Business event is on 12th December at the National Liberal Club with Sir Vince Cable. Tickets available here.  Lib Dems in Business can be found on Facebook and twitter.  Please contact Paul Lucraft, Chair, if you wish to join Lib Dems in Business or require further information: [email protected].

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Jenny Barnes 2nd Dec '16 - 4:01pm

    green vehicles…are bicycles
    electric cars still use too much energy moving 1-2 tonnes of 3 piece suite around for each person. Yes, they generate much less local pollution, but the electricity has to be generated. EDF has had to shut down several of their nuclear power stations, we are running right on the edge of what we can generate with nothing from the French interconnector. Will Hinkley point ever be built? I doubt it. We need more gas fired power stations – and more cycle infrastructure. 50% modal share for the dutch 2% or so for us – and by comparison with any other mode of transport, it’s almost emission free.

  • Jenny Barnes 2nd Dec '16 - 4:06pm
  • Neil Sandison 2nd Dec '16 - 4:35pm

    Couldnt agree more Kirsten still a lot of work to be done on the reuse agenda particularly with the low price of recycling .Organic waste can be turned into composts ,soil improver,
    and put through digesters to produce energy .Why send non organic to landfill when it could be reused as a low carbon energy fuel to replace coal and gas ,Why dont we insist developers use more recycled materials in construction for road surfacing and cycle paths thereby creating an internal market for surplus recyclate ?

  • I’m guessing you were asking about hand-held PM2.5 meters, because big ones definitely exist. The key really is to reduce the generation, which is one of the reasons that electric cars definitely have a use – in urban areas. I do, however, agree they remain inefficient if most of your driving is in rural areas.

    The LibDems should be championing the Circular Economy. For those not familiar, it basically means getting the most out of our resources, including designing and building things so they can be re-used or repaired, and getting away from planned obsolescence. Waste products from one industry become the raw materials for another.

  • Daniel Walker 2nd Dec '16 - 7:03pm

    @Kirsten, @Fiona Very small PM2.5 particle counters do exist, e.g. British company, even!

  • @Daniel, they may need to be placed within a larger monitoring station, requiring loggers and pumps etc. My point really was that meters definitely do exist for measuring PM2.5, so was giving a possible explanation for the error. The big ones have been around for years, so I can’t believe Dr Ahmed didn’t know about them.

    For those interested, this is some information on the national automated air quality monitoring network.

  • Daniel Walker 2nd Dec '16 - 8:02pm

    @Fiona I’ve used one; they log to an SD card quite happily, and contain a fan to draw in the air. They need a small power supply, and that’s it. Here’s an article describing a remote instillation; note there’s three sensors in that box, and the stuff in the middle is to communicate “back to base”; it’s not required for the thing to work.

  • Daniel Walker 2nd Dec '16 - 9:57pm

    @Fiona I have used one of those Alphasense devices; they self-log and do not require pumps, just a memory card and a small power supply. (although you can connect external loggers, wireless modems, etc. depending on requirements) They are quite new though, so it’s possible Dr Ahmed hasn’t heard of them. I agree it’s not very likely he doesn’t know about the big fixed-installation sort.

  • Kirsten johnson 2nd Dec '16 - 10:00pm

    Fiona, I couldn’t agree more about the Circular Economy. It is definitely an idea we need to champion in Lib Dem policy and future manifesto.

    I also agree that we need much better biking infrastructure. Julian Huppert has done some great work in Cambridge, and we need to use that knowledge and roll out some good cycle initiatives which increase bicycle usage in a safe way.

    I am not an expert in PM2.5 metres, but I have asked Dr Ahmed to comment.

    Thank you all for reading.

  • @Kirsten The Circular Economy is such an obvious fit for the LibDems. It’s very practical, with excellent environmental benefits, but also supportive of business, and particularly helpful for small businesses. We need to move away from the idea that to be environmentally friendly, life should be sparse.

    We can still have nice things – just have nice things that have been properly designed to last, or to be repaired or re-used.

    There is a lot of work being done by some local authorities to help local businesses, as well as reduce waste, so this should be an area of interest for our Councillors. There is also a lot that can and should be done at a national policy level to build this into how all businesses function, which may also have benefits for consumer rights.

    There has been brilliant work by the Ellen McArthur Foundation on this, with loads of resources, and I’m sure they’d be delighted to help us make some progress here.

    This might be a bit long for most, but it’s a recent webinar on the subject by the Institute of Environmental Sciences.

    A shorter introduction to the concepts here:

  • Very nice article, Kirsten. Thank you.
    A small, but a key, correction is that the images I shown and described in our recent study are not of fine PM2.5 but of nanoparticles found in human brain of sizes between 20 – 30 nm . Nanoparticles are ultrafine materials that have particle sizes less than 100 nm (0.1 μm) which are known to contribute nearly negligibly to PM2.5 mass, but dominate the particle number concentration. This means that the classical PM2.5 (cut-off = 2.5 μm = 2500 nm) and even PM1 (cut-off = 1 μm = 1000 nm) will not be able to measure or monitor nanoparticles.

    The Alphasense that was mentioned kindly by Fiona is a type of photosensors that rely on a processes called light scattering which work reasonably well with particles with an average size between 300 nm (NOT a nanoparticle) and ~10 μm. Particles smaller than 300 nm do not scatter enough light and hence they are difficult to detect.

    I am a ware of a range of intense research in the area of real-time detection of nanoparticle in air including the small monitors for personal or small work space (e.g. and but I would be interested to know about the availability of any commercial products that may be used for continuous monitoring on busy roads.

    The critical thing is that nanoparticles are exteremly reactive substances and they have the capacity to carry significant amounts of toxic contaminants such as heavy metals and organic species that may produce oxidative stress in our body. This is the sort of danger that new research, including our article (, started to reveal.

    The other important point related to the detection of nanoparticles is that although it is now clear that nanoparticle can cause a variety of adverse health outcomes, it is not yet clear which metric of nanoparticle substances (i.e., shape, particle size, chemical structure or composition) is most strongly correlated with health problems. This means that we do need to carry out more research in order to identify these factors which would then be able to help developing selective detection and monitoring technology of nanoparticles in the air we breathe.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Martin Bennett
    Sceptic: You have picked out data that appears to minimise tobacco dependence. The criteria for physical dependence relate to specific physical withdrawal symp...
  • Alex B
    It was good to see two Lib Dem MPs raising highly pertinent matters relevant to their own constituents and the wider population, even if they were largely fobbe...
  • Simon R
    Since I wrote the above comment, the LibDem manifesto for London has been published ( so to be fair I...
  • Phil Wainewright
    Instead of restricting individual freedom, surely we should simply tax at 100% all profits made from nicotine addiction?...
  • James Moore
    @David Raw Temperance was about individuals voluntarily agreeing to give up alcohol, not the central state banning people from drinking it. At the end of ...