News in brief

Photo competition highlights air pollution issues

A British photographer was among five winners of awards in a photo competition to recognise works depicting air pollution issues in Europe.

Organised by NGO the European Environment Bureau (EEB), the ImaginAIR photo story competition challenged participants to take three pictures telling a story about air.

Stephen Connell won the Publi Choice award for his

Stephen Connell won the Public Choice Award for his photostory ‘Waste Light’ detailing pollution at night at factories in the UK

Stephen Connell, an ophthalmic science practitioner from Sheffield, won the Public Choice Award for ‘Wasted Light’, his series of night time photos of UK power stations and steel works. The award was voted for online by the public.

Receiving his award in Brussels last week (January 8), he said: “It’s a great honour to receive this award. My own photography is becoming more environmentally aware, and gaining this prestigious prize will allow me to pursue this further. Climate change and environmental issues are close to my heart.

He added: “Can I say a big ‘thank you’ to the European Environment Agency for their support and encouragement with this award. I really can’t express how much this award means to me. Thank you everyone again for casting your votes.”

Another photographer, Ireland’s Stephen Mynhardt, won the Air and Nature category with a photo story about air pollution and bird life called ‘Ever Closing’.

Several other photographers from across Europe were also chosen as winners in different categories of the ImaginAIR competition. The winners were formally announced at the launch of the EU 2013 ‘Year of Air’ last week in Brussels and their entries can be seen on the EU website.

Guidance published for £170m fund to tackle congestion

Advice for councils looking to apply to a £170 million fund to help tackle local bottleneck traffic problems has been published by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Funding from the DfT’s Local Pinch Point Fund will be available for local transport and highway authorities until March 2015, with each authority allowed to apply for up to £10 million.

According to the DfT, the fund will tackle obstacles on the local transport network that restrict growth by limiting the movement of goods, employees and customers.

Schemes eligible for funding may include improvements to local roads to ease congestion bottlenecks and speed up journey times, or the construction of new roads, junctions or roundabouts to improve access to business or housing development sites.

The DfT guidance is available on the UK government website.

London air quality to benefit from 2,000 more trees

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced another 2,000 trees are to be planted in London this spring

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced another 2,000 trees are to be planted in London this spring

Air quality in the UK capital is set to benefit from the planting of around 2,000 trees across 19 London boroughs this spring, Mayor Boris Johnson has announced.

The street tree scheme is part of the Mayor’s promise to provide 10,000 new trees in residential areas by March 2015 and will be delivered in partnership with the Forestry Commission and community charity Groundwork London.

Trees provide a range of benefits such as improving local air quality, reducing flood risks, providing shade and offering habitats for wildlife, according to the Mayor’s office.

Under the scheme local boroughs, community groups and charities can apply for funding from a pot of £1.7m to plant street trees. The next round of the Mayor’s street tree initiative will open for applications in spring 2013.

MEPs vote to further limit motor vehicle noise

EU environment committee MEPs have voted to update legislation that limits motor vehicle noise.

The environment committee has also recommended introducing a labelling scheme that would inform European citizens about the levels of noise produced by new cars. Similar EU labelling schemes showing vehicles’ fuel consumption, tyre noise and CO2 emissions are already in place.

A European Commission official believes new regulations coming into force in 2014 will help reduce diesel emissions.

MEPs have voted to update EU legislation limiting noise from motor vehicles

The proposed update of the relevant Directive (70/157/EEC) sets lower sound limits for new vehicles in category M (for passengers) and category N (for goods). It was approved by 30 votes in favour to 27 against with two abstentions on 18 December.

Speaking before the vote, rapporteur and Czech Republic MEP Miroslav Ouzký commented: “This regulation has been discussed in the Environment Committee for a year now and I am convinced it will help to protect health of EU citizens against the negative effects of motor vehicle noise.”

Another proposal to limit noise on motor vehicles even further than recommended in the original proposal was also adopted by 29 votes in favour to 28 against with two abstentions.

The proposal would also set unifying standards for the sound levels of hybrid and electric vehicles, which are sometimes fitted with Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems (AVAS). AVAS use continuous sound to inform pedestrians of a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle.

The final legislation will still need to be approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council in order for the Directive to be updated.

Registration opens for Mercury 2013 conference

Online visitor registration has opened for the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (Mercury 2013) in Edinburgh on July 28 – August 2.

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre where Mercury 2013 will take place

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre where Mercury 2013 will take place

The theme for the 2013 event is ‘Science Informing Global Policy’, and will follow the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) binding agreement on mercury, which aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic releases of mercury and its compounds.

Conference sessions will include themes such as monitoring, environmental biogeochemistry, atmospheric transport and human exposure, while delegates will include regulators, laboratory analysts, and visitors from a variety of industry sectors.

Visitor registration for the conference, which takes place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, is available on the Mercury 2013 website.