YESI supports the Open Lecture Series

News | Posted on Thursday 2 November 2017

‘A breath of fresh’, co-organised with SEI-York and IDN explored new perspectives around local, national and international air quality management.

In recent years air quality has seen a rise in public awareness and has moved up the political agenda both in the UK and Europe. Meanwhile, in Africa, it is becoming apparent that the continent will face some of the most substantial air quality challenges over the next few decades.

The event, which coincided with the United Nation’s World Cities Day, was designed to examine policy responses to air pollution in Europe and explore whether these can be applied to developing countries in Africa.

The event began with an interesting keynote speech by Professor Martin Williams of the Environmental Research Group, King’s College London. He looked at how policy response on local, national and European levels has been based on scientific evidence, but science is invariably only one item to be considered. Political priorities, cost and legal issues are but a few factors that play a part.

He also highlighted the importance of regional cooperation when solving local air pollution issues as pollution can cross boundaries.

A panel discussion followed the talk, involving Professor Martin Williams, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) PhD student Andriannah Mbandi, York Politics lecturer Dr Philippe Frowd, and Mike Southcombe from the City of York Council. The discussion explored the challenges involved in transferring air quality policies, technology and ideas to the developing world.

The panel, chaired by Johan Kuylenstierna, Executive Director of SEI, agreed it is important for Africa to learn from the successes in developed countries, but the context of Africa needs to be considered. Ms Mbandi and Dr Frowd discussed how policy co-ordination, public buy-in and education is essential when tackling air pollution in Africa.

The issue of technological dumping was also raised. Mr Southcombe mentioned that when adopting newer vehicles/technologies, commercial companies have been known to move older, more polluting vehicles/technologies to other areas and countries with no emission or age based regulations in place. Ms Mbandi’s take home message was that we need to focus more on technology transfer than technology dumping.

The event was wrapped up by Professor Jean Grugel, Director of the International Development Network (IDN) and Professor of Development Politics, who reinforced the messages raised by the panel and emphasised that politics matters in all aspects of air pollution and environmental management.

She also promoted the ‘York Global Development Centre’ which will support interdisciplinary research, underpinned by a firm commitment to social justice and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The lecture will appear on YouTube in due course.