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Report: The Northern Air Quality Conference 2023

Last week we held our first conference of the year, at The Midland Hotel in Manchester.   

As ever, the event brought policymakers, charity workers, academics and air quality professionals together to trade ideas and information relating to how we can improve the quality of the air around us. 

Beverley Nielsen, Associate Professor, Birmingham City University and independent Councillor in Malvern Hills, Worcestershire was one again our host for the day, orchestrating proceedings with characteristic élan. In her introduction to the conference she addressed the harm caused by poor air quality in vulnerable and ethic communities, citing the tragic cases of Ella Kissi-Debrah and Awaab Ishaq.

The first presentation was by Andy Hickford, Senior Project Manager Sustainable Energy & Air Quality at Leeds City Council. Andy talked about the Leeds Air Quality Strategy and brought up the subject of indoor air quality, observing that where we live and work is just as important as how we get there.

Andy was followed by Prof. Rosie McEachan from Born in Bradford,  a research progrmamme that has been tracking the well-being of 40,000 Bradford-born children from birth, with the oldest cohort now reaching adolescence.  It was particularly illuminating to hear how different communities had divergent opinions on the issues and importance of air quality.

Rosie later said: ‘It was a pleasure to speak at the Air Quality conference and have the opportunity to network with air quality experts and policy makers. I would definitely recommend the event to others working to reduce pollution across the UK – it is a great opportunity to meet others in this field.’

The first break of the day allowed the delegates to pick up a coffee and chat to the exhibitors who had set up in the adjoining room.

Back in the main room, the second session began with a panel discussion, the panel being made up of: Douglas Booker (Lancaster University),  Nick Ruxton-Boyle (Vortex), Dr Sanja Potgieter (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Jason Torrance (UK100).  Questions from the floor were wide-ranging and occasionally provocative with air pollution from crematoria one of the subjects brought up. 

After lunch Jacob Roberts, Senior Policy & Strategy Consultant at Cenex spoke about EV infrastructure and assured the assembled local authority representatives that making a profit from EV charge stations was going to be more difficult than they might imagine. 

Nannette Yousef, Policy Offer at Runnymede Trust was the next to the lectern, talking about the iniquitous global imbalance that sees black communities suffer most from air pollution. Nannette chillingly referred to ‘air pollution sacrifice zones’ and her words clearly hit home because her presentation provoked more questions than any other on the day.

After the event Nannette said: ‘It was a pleasure and a privilege to take part in such an interesting and engaging conference, which brought together experts from multiple backgrounds to speak about air quality. It gave me hope that there are so many people dedicated to finding solutions to our current air quality crisis’.

It was a joy to have Jenny Jones, The Baroness of Moulescoomb address us next. As the person responsible for introducing the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill (also known as Ella’s Law) to Parliament she is a person worth listening to. While obviously covering some serious issues, Jenny’s insights to the machinations of Parliament were often hilarious.

Prof. Ally LewisProfessor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of York closed the day on the subject of air pollution as a trans-boundary problem, theorising that only half the PM2.5 in the UK is actually controllable. He followed this by emphasising that there was still very much a point in trying to reduce the amount in the air.

After the event, Beverley Nielsen said: ‘Huge well done to the team at Air Quality News who’ve staged another inspiring conference on how we can address poor air quality in our cities, towns and even in our more rural areas.  What an uplifting event with highly experienced speakers and a great chance to network with practitioners addressing these challenges every day.’

So our first conference of the year came to a successful conclusion. Thanks to everyone involved: the speakers, the sponsors, the exhibitors and of course the delegates. 

This year we are taking the conference to Bristol for the first time, so to our readers in the that part of the World, we hope to see you there.

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