Clean Air and Water
Creating a cleaner environment for all generations to come
Why this theme?
Every year around the region, approximately 900 people die as a direct result of poor air quality and 5.1% of the population die early as a result of on-going exposure. As time goes on, research is beginning to unveil the problems arising as a result of poor air quality, linking the issue to many other health impacts that will reduce quality of life for the population. Meanwhile, watercourses that play a fundamental role in halting the trend of declining biodiversity in the region remain over-polluted, an issue that needs to be reversed for the sake of our precious natural environment.
Numerous initiatives such as the Birmingham Clean Air Zone, Government’s electric vehicle push and the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund may all contribute to the reduction in air pollution levels, and time will tell whether the Covid-19 pandemic has had any positive lasting effects on either air or water pollution. However, at present the data reflects the need for increased efforts in this area, owing to a combination of high urban and industrialisation combined with a high proportion of communities in deprivation or with health issues that pollution may exacerbate.
Target: By 2030, reduce mortality as a result of PM2.5 pollution exposure by 75% from 2019 levels
We used the Clean Air Strategy and the NHS Long Term Plan as a basis for the target, as well as consulting with experts such as the WM-Air team based at the University of Birmingham (see below) and the Environment Agency. In addition, we hosted an event in June 2019 to gain feedback on the development of this theme and the challenges we needed to consider.
We are still working to provide a target that focuses on Clean Water. As yet, we have been unable to access the necessary data to create a suitable evidence based target; we will continue to liaise with the Environment Agency and other stakeholders to develop this.
Current progress on this target (2021) – more action needed. Essentially, the latest data (2019) from UK Health Security Agency are telling us that more than 5% of the West Midlands population die earlier than they should from exposure to particulate air pollution. We need this to be at around 1.3% by 2030 to meet the target, and there is currently no evidence of a decline.
What our Members are doing
The University of Birmingham have been heavily involved in researching air quality and its impact on society. The University established the West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme (WM-Air), led by Prof. William Bloss, to support the improvement of air quality and associated health, environmental and economic benefits in the West Midlands. The project has support from a wide range of organisations across the region that have partnered with the team, including the the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, and HS2.
Severn Trent Water works everyday with our most precious natural resource and sees the importance of protecting and ensuring that its quality and accessibility is good for the sake of the regional population and local wildlife. Working with organisations such as the Wildlife Trust and RSPB, Severn Trent employs 21 rangers to take care and run visitor sites and to protect and nurture the wildlife that uses them as their homes. Their job is to fix water pollution problems when they are noticed – but it is also our responsibility to prevent pollution happening in the first place.