(C) Smithsonian Magazine

Poor air quality is a pressing policy issue that spans public health and environmental portfolios, and governments worldwide are investing in a wide array of measures to address it (Quarmby et al, 2019).


Many of those living in cities experience outdoor air quality that fails to meet World Health Organisation guidelines for healthy living. This has reached such an extent that air pollution, principally caused by nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particles of aerodynamic diameter less that 2.5 µm (PM2.5), is now the leading environmental cause of mortality world-wide.


Over the past few years, WHO estimated air pollution caused between 3 and 4 million premature deaths a year, twice the number due to road traffic accidents (World Health Organisation, 2016).

Many other cities around the world are also seeking to be carbon neutral or zero-carbon within the next few decades. In their quest for achieving improved air quality, authorities world-wide have, with few exceptions, struggled to provide adequate air quality improvements through emission control strategies alone. While reducing pollutant emissions is always the most direct way to improve urban air quality, policy makers are increasingly turning to complementary methods.

Recent research highlights some of these:

  • the use of green infrastructure - street and park trees, green walls, green roofs and other means of introducing vegetation into the urban landscape – can be an important contributor (Hewitt et al , 2020)

  • The development of autonomous vehicles technology as an opportunity to deal with cities air pollution (Rafael et al, 2020)

  • the adoption of citizen science approaches to enhance education and community engagement (Mahajan et al, 2020)


Hewitt, C. N., Ashworth, K., & MacKenzie, A. R. (2020). Using green infrastructure to improve urban air quality (GI4AQ). Ambio, 49(1), 62-73.

Mahajan, S., Kumar, P., Pinto, J. A., Riccetti, A., Schaaf, K., Camprodon, G., ... & Forino, G. (2020). A citizen science approach for enhancing public understanding of air pollution. Sustainable Cities and Society, 52, 101800.http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/250141/1/9789241511353-eng.pdf

Quarmby, S., Santos, G., & Mathias, M. (2019). Air Quality Strategies and Technologies: A Rapid Review of the International Evidence. Sustainability, 11(10), 2757.

Rafael, S., Correia, L. P., Lopes, D., Bandeira, J., Coelho, M. C., Andrade, M., ... & Miranda, A. I. (2020). Autonomous vehicles opportunities for cities air quality. Science of The Total Environment, 136546.

World Health Organisation (2016) Ambient Air Pollution: A Global Assessment of Exposure and Burden of Disease.  http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/250141/1/9789241511353-eng.pdf.

Ahead of the COG26 meeting later this year, Glasgow city council has set out its ambitions to be a carbon neutral city by 2030. In presenting plans for achieve fundamental changes to the operation of the city and especially the city centre is called for. Greater municipal control over energy supply and public transport provision is advocated, along with an extension of the current plans for a low emission zone in the city centre (see link).


As the latest report indicating that the city also hosts Scotland’s most polluted street (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-51163098 ) there is a lot of improvement required.

(C) Glasgow Times

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