Air pollution – you can’t touch it, hear it, taste it or see it (unless it’s really bad); so how do you engage individuals, communities, organizations and policy-makers to take steps to #BeatAirPollution?
Air pollution is an “invisible killer” and as such it can be hard to truly understand the impacts air pollutants have on our lives and our environment. It also makes it hard to understand the impacts our personal actions can have on levels of air pollution.
- 92 per cent of people worldwide do not breathe clean air
- Transport emissions have been linked to nearly 400,000 premature deaths
- Air pollution costs the global economy $5 trillion every year in welfare costs
Air pollution is a term used to describe lots of different pollutants in the air around us. These include:
- Particulates such as PM2.5 (smaller than the width of a human hair) which can come from fires, exhaust fumes, smoking or the dust from brake pads on cars;
- Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) mostly come from burning fuels or other materials;
- Low level ozone, formed from other pollutants when exposed to sunlight.
Air pollution can impact human health in a number of ways. Air pollutants can be inhaled and absorbed into your body, damaging cells and being linked to respiratory diseases, vascular diseases and some cancers
So what are we at Siemens doing about it?
Firstly, it’s the personal actions we can all take. This image from a recent BBC News article really struck a chord.
As a mother to two young children I realised that they are exposed to far more traffic fumes than I am when walking along doing the school run. These thermal images help show us hot exhaust fumes coming out of the tail pipe of our cars, exposing what is normally invisible to us.
Tackling that invisible pollution requires action at all levels. For World Environment Day we ran campaigns at Siemens sites to raise awareness of air pollution and the actions we can all take to help #BeatAirPollution. Focusing on transport, as it’s something we all use, need and can make decisions on, we are asking Siemens employees to make a pledge to change the way they travel.
Siemens in the UK has partnered with DoNation in 2019 to run an employee pledging programme for environmental change. We are focusing on pledges that will help beat air pollution such as switching to public transport, cycling to work and starting to car share. To encourage wider engagement our sites are competing against each other to see who make the greatest number of pledges. We’ll also be tracking the carbon savings that come from these pledges as traveling less, or changing the way we travel, also helps cut our carbon footprint.
Siemens is proud to be collaborating with IEMA and Society for the Environment to work in partnership developing resources, supporting events and webinars to raise awareness across broader society on this important issue.
Siemens technology can be a key enabler to tackle air pollution. For example, our technologies for managing Low Emission Zones have been used in London for congestion charging as well as the new Ultra Low Emission Zone. These technologies will also be rolled out in Leeds to support the new Leeds Low Emission Zone to reduce air pollution in the city by encouraging businesses to transition to cleaner, lower emission vehicles.
Looking at things on a broader scale, Siemens City Performance Tool (CyPT) helps transform city level data into insights that can support decision makers tackling sustainability challenges. CyPT-Air is focused on air pollution from the transport sector. Using multiple data inputs it assesses how different transport-related measures could reduce air pollution. For example, this might be by influencing shifts in modes of transportation (e.g. from car to metro) or increasing the efficiency of public transport (e.g. automated trains). This city wide approach can drive down air pollution on a larger scale.
Stepping up to the challenge
So there are lots of players needed to #BeatAirPollution. We can all take personal action in looking at our transport choices. Do you need to travel to that meeting or could you meet virtually? If you do need to travel, do you need to drive? Could you take public transport or get there on your own steam by cycling or walking? If you own a car, would a less polluting model work for you? Could you switch to an electric vehicle?
As a business, we continue to strive for more ways we can tackle air pollution, both for our own operations and for those of our customers. Siemens has signed up to the Clean Van Commitment – a public pledge to move to zero emission vans in UK cities by 2028. Also, Siemens technology can be an enabler for city level change using data to help inform strategic decisions to tackle air pollution.
If everyone makes one small change to start, it could add up to a large societal shift that consigns air pollution to the history books. What will you do to step up to the challenge to #BeatAirPollution?
Want to find out more about air pollution, what you can do personally, or what other organisations are doing? Check out these sites:
For more information on Sustainability at Siemens in the UK and globally: https://new.siemens.com/uk/en/company/sustainability.html
Sarah Jones is Environment Manager for Siemens in the UK. Sarah works across environmental, carbon and sustainability issues within the business setting. Recent experience includes a focus on Circular Economy Learning and programmes to raise environmental awareness within the business. A Chartered Environmentalist and MIEMA, Sarah is a passionate change maker striving for a culture of environmental consideration.