The Brussels-Capital Region and Bloomberg Philanthropies have announced the next phase of their Brussels Clean Air Partnership, which started in 2020. The new phase of the Partnership in the Belgian capital will see a set of initiatives to support research and to engage local organisations to promote sustainable urban mobility, such as walking and cycling, as well as more sustainable urban freight deliveries.
As part of the initiative, Brussels and Bloomberg collect data on air quality to understand better the sources of the pollution and their health impacts. “Air pollution kills hundreds of thousands of people across Europe every year,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP. The European Environment Agency quantifies this as 400,000 premature deaths per year in Europe and 9,000 in Belgium.
Support activities under the Partnership aim to enable academia, civil society and the public sector to implement a wide range of projects and concrete actions to reduce air pollution and traffic-related greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the Mobilise Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has created an incubator for pilot projects to reduce emissions from the logistics sector. The incubator aims to address the fact that 16,000 trucks and 26,000 delivery vans move around Brussels each day. While they account for 17% of the traffic volumes, their share of emissions is far larger, as they produce 28% of the city's small particle (PM2.5) emissions, 34% of its emissions of the oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and about 25% of traffic-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Cathy Macharis, Professor at the VUB and coordinator of the Mobilise Research Group, said: “Freight transport costs €60,000 every day to the public health system."
Another project is being undertaken by the Catholic University of Leuven, which will develop an air quality model that exploits data from the first phase of the Clean Air Partnership to forecast nitrogen dioxide levels. The model will form the basis of a tool that will enable planners to identify the air quality implications of public space redevelopment projects.
The results of the first phase of the partnership found a striking disparity in pollution levels across the city. A resident-led air quality project, the CurieuzenAir initiative, revealed that socio-economically vulnerable neighbourhoods were more likely to suffer from high pollution levels. The project mapped nitrogen dioxide concentrations using measuring tubes outside the homes of 3,000 residents. About 17,000 people (1.4% of the population) experience emission levels that exceed the 40 µg/m3 European air quality standards and 1.2 million inhabitants live or work in areas that exceed the World Health Organisation’s stricter threshold value of 10 µg/m3.
Article published first at CitiesToday on 24 April 2023.
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