The Air We Grieve

Today we will be taking action in Dorking and Reigate to highlight the issue of air pollution locally, nationally and globally.

Reason 1 – Health

Air pollution is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK and contributes to shortening and reducing the quality of life for thousands. 40,000 UK deaths a year are estimated to arise from air pollution (Royal College of Physicians).

Globally, one in five people die from air pollution, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, like coal and diesel (Harvard School of Public Health).

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is widely understood to be the pollutant that is the most damaging to health, yet the Government’s Environment Bill 2021 does not set a limit or target for particle pollution – despite amendments proposed by the House of Lords for an air quality target for PM2.5 of less than or equal to 10µg/m3 by 2030 (UK Parliament).  This target was compatible with the former World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, which have since been lowered to 5µg/m3, although it recognises that ‘no threshold has been identified below which no damage to health is observed’ (WHO).

Reason 2 – Climate Emergency

Air quality and climate change are intimately connected, with many common causes.

The burning of fossil fuels causes air pollution and is driving climate change.  Yet our Government continues to support their production by subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and by funding projects abroad – the UK has given £13.6 billion of tax payers money in tax breaks and payments to the oil and gas industry since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 (Paid to Pollute)

Despite announcing that the UK Government would stop supporting fossil fuel projects overseas in December 2020 (UK Government), it still plans to support a controversial gas project in Mozambique.  Friends of the Earth will be challenging this decision in court in the coming days (Friends of the Earth)

The climate pact agreed at COP26 refers to the ‘phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’.   The Climate Change Committee that advises the UK Government makes clear that ‘No fossil fuel subsidies should be classed as ‘efficient’’ (CCC).

Fossil fuels are killing us.

We must demand that our Government stops supporting them, to both improve our health and hasten a just transition towards a zero carbon society.

Action you can take:

If you are interested in tackling air pollution locally this online event by the Community Planning Alliance on 7th December (more dates to follow) aimed at actively engaging communities in the air quality debate,  may be of interest.

Read about how XR Dorking monitored air pollution locally during lockdown here.

Support Paid to Pollute – taking the Government to court to stop payments for big polluters.

Write to your MP to ask them to call for the ending of fossil fuel subsidies.

Does your bank fund fossil fuels?  Check here.  Find a more ethical bank here.

Reduce the amount of car journeys you make – where possible walk or cycle for shorter journeys, lift share, or take public transport.  Plan ahead and combine trips. 

Do not leave your car engine idling while waiting for a prolonged period of time.

Take part in local actions with XR Dorking – get in touch

Horse hill appeal fundraiser

The online auction to raise funds for the Horse Hill Appeal is now live!

https://app.galabid.com/horsehillappeal

Climate campaigner, Sarah Finch, is challenging Surrey Surrey County Council’s decision to allow four new oil wells (in addition to the two existing wells on the site) and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill, near Gatwick Airport.

At the Appeal Hearing, starting on 16th November 2021, the court will decide whether Surrey County Council should have taken account of greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil produced at the site.

This Auction Fundraiser is the last in a series of crowdfunding and fundraising initiatives to cover costs of the legal case, which have also included Pat’s 100 mile sponsored walk and  a sponsored bike ride from London to Barcelona.

Please support this fundraiser if you can! Click here

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Further information on the case from Weald Action Group’s website:

‘The oil produced here [Horse Hill] could give rise to more than 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gases when it is burned – but these ‘indirect’ emissions were not assessed during the planning process. Sarah argues that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should have included an assessment of the full climate impacts of the project.

Last year, a judge dismissed her challenge, but a judge in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said that Sarah’s argument “has far reaching ramifications” and “the emission of GHG is a matter of considerable public concern”. He added that “in view of the importance of the question, I regard this as a compelling reason for the appeal to be heard”.

If Sarah’s case succeeds in the Court of Appeal, it could potentially have enormous significance. In future, for any planning applications that are likely to have a major effect on the environment, the developer could have to assess the full climate impacts, including emissions that are outside their control.

This would be a huge step forward in closing the current gap between our climate treaty obligations and planning practice in the UK.

The hearing takes place in the Appeal Court in November 2021. Sarah’s lawyers are working hard preparing her case and will be up against lawyers representing Surrey County Council plus Horse Hill Developments Ltd and the the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Friends of the Earth has joined the case on Sarah’s side. Sarah is represented by Leigh Day solicitors, Marc Willers QC (Garden Court Chambers) and Estelle Dehon (Cornerstone Chambers). Friends of the Earth is represented by Paul Brown QC and Nina Pindham (No 5 Chambers).

East Surrey People’s Assembly

We’ve had lots of positive feedback from the first East Surrey People’s Assembly, which was facilitated by members of XR Dorking and XR Reigate and Redhill. Over 80 participants took part and contributed to the discussion ‘How do you want East Surrey to be in 2030?’

ESPA envisioned East Surrey in 2030 as a web of well-connected communities, collaborating with local authorities to realise community-led initiatives. A place where nature and biodiversity are considered full members of our community, protected by law and considered in all decisions. There were ideas for a fully integrated transport system, with significantly reduced car use enabling more pedestrianisation, safe cycling and walking. Others saw movement from a consumption-based society to embrace shared ownership, local production and a variety of re-use, repair and re-purposing schemes run by young entrepreneurs.

For more information on people’s assembly’s please visit the Peoples Assembly Surrey website

May local elections

At our XR Dorking/XR Reigate and Redhill People’s Assembly earlier this year, we set up a Working Group on Councillor Engagement.  This summarises the plan created by this Group:

Our objective is to put the climate and ecological emergency on the agenda in the local elections in May.  As many candidates as possible should be made aware that the climate and ecological emergency is a priority for many residents in their ward.  Using an approach developed by the South East Climate Alliance (SECA),  candidates are asked to sign an ABCD pledge card (below) that commits them to action in 4 areas – Aim Higher, Build Biodiversity, Communicate and Divest. 

What do we want to achieve?

To put the climate and ecological emergency on the agenda in the local elections in May:

  1. All candidates are made aware that the climate and ecological emergency is a priority for many residents in their ward
  2. All candidates are asked to sign an ABCD Pledge Card that commits them to action in 4 areas – Aim Higher, Build Biodiversity, Communicate and Divest.
  3. The list of candidates who sign the pledge will be publicised so that voters know who supports climate action. See http://bit.ly/ABCDsignatories to see this as it develops.

How will this be achieved?

1. We are asking residents across Surrey, who want to see action to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, to contact the candidates in their county council ward and district/borough ward who are up for election.

2. Put your postcode into https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ and this will confirm the wards (County and possibly District/Borough) and all candidates standing that you can vote for. You may also be able to get contact details from election leaflets or local party offices.

3.   A sample email for this has been developed, at https://docs.google.com/document/d/13Y2uoxW_zNiqNeMtMhh9pkGvZVSGAss85sielxPqoJQ/edit?usp=sharing     

The email includes a request to candidates to sign the Pledge Card, which is attached as a pdf and asks the candidate to take a selfie of them holding the pledge card and send it to pledgeforclimate@gmail.com 

So please do write to the candidates in your area to ask them to commit to the ABCD pledge.

Surrey Pension Act Now

Surrey Pension Fund continues to invest in companies that are driving ecological collapse, mass extinction, and climate breakdown. The Fund still holds c. £70m in dirty fossil fuels, which risk becoming ‘stranded assets’, as the former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned.

It is ever more clear that the fossil fuel era is ending, signalled by the rapid growth in renewable energy supply, the mass production of electric vehicles and governments at last recognising the imperative to act.”

Surrey County Council’s refusal to divest the pension fund from fossil fuels has resulted in losses of £130 mllion in the three and a half years since May 2017.

To join the campaign calling on Surrey Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels please visit Surrey Pension Act Now

The Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill

The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill was introduced to Parliament as a Private Members Bill on 2nd September 2020.  Guided by the current science, this Bill has been written by an alliance of scientists, lawyers academics and campaigners, in the hope of securing a sound strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore the natural world, to try to prevent catastrophic climate change

Nature is our life support system – it provides food, water, medicine, pollination, helps regulate the climate and flood prevention, and boosts our mental health.  it is essential for our wellbeing.   But we have been living beyond the means of our planet and eroded natural resources, to such an extent, that habitats have been destroyed or polluted and wildlife is struggling to survive.  Scientists fear that the sixth mass extinction is underway.

In the UK alone:

  • 41% of all UK’s species have declined since the 70s (hedgehogs have declined by 95%)
  • 26% of the UK’s mammals are at a very real risk of becoming extinct
  • A third of the wild bees and hoverfly species have sustained losses, likely due to pesticides, habitat loss and climate change
  • 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost

(State of Nature report 2019)

The CEE Bill requires urgent action to reduce the negative impacts that human activities have had on the health of soil and biodiversity and restore and enhance nature, so that it wildlife and ecosystems can thrive.  When they are healthy, living systems such as forests, peat bogs, saltmarshes and the sea bed, support life and absorb carbon from the atmosphere, which can help tackle the climate emergency too.  The Bill also outlines new targets for the UK to reduce its real fair share of carbon emissions, in line with the spirit of the Paris Agreement. You can read more about it here.

For the Bill to suceed it will require cross-party support and all MPs to unite behind it.   We need to all come together, to act for the common good.  The future of our children, their children and countless species is in the balance.

Please write to your MP asking them to support the CEE Bill.

We Do Not Have A Free Press

Overnight on Friday, 4th September, over 100 rebels blockaded newspaper printers overnight, successfully preventing The Sun, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Times from reaching newsstands all over the country.

In one of Extinction Rebellion’s most coordinated and disruptive actions to date, rebels simultaneously took site in Broxbourne, Liverpool and Glasgow with fantastically effective roadblock structures.

The media has a vital role to play in telling the most urgent story of our time – the climate and ecological emergency. We desperately need them to stop spreading hatred and lies, and instead take a real lead to help us come together to hold our government to account.

‘Priti Patel has accused us of making an “attack on free press, society and democracy”. That’s hyperbolic for sure. But let’s not get distracted. Our free press, society and democracy is under attack – from a failing government that lies to us consistently, is becoming increasingly authoritarian, and is leading us towards 4 degrees of warming.

Priti Patel and her government are part of a political system that does not want and does not benefit from a free press. Instead our leaders have allowed the majority of our media to be amassed in the hands of five people with powerful vested interests and deep connections to fossil fuel industries. [1] Powerful vested interest has led to the appointment of Tony Abbott – a friend of Rupert Murdochs, a climate change denier, misogynist and homophobe – as a UK Trade Envoy. Our leaders are allowing these powerful few to deny the young the information they need to plan for their futures and defend themselves. ‘ (from XR Press release 5.9.20)

A free press is vital. But UK mainstream media is not ‘free’ press. It is owned by a few billionaires whose agenda is not holding government & powerful institutions to account for their negligence in failing to act to protect its citizens.

For democracy to work, people need to be in possession of the facts.

[1] BBC documentary The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000kxw1/the-rise-of-the-murdoch-dynasty

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!

Local rebels joined a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party outside Gatwick Airport yesterday to protest against the high carbon footprint of the airline industry.

Less than 10% of the world’s population has ever been on a plane. Yet the airline industry is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rebels in fancy dress were joined by a former pilot who left the airline industry, for which he had worked for a number of years, as he felt that he could no longer support the carbon-intensive industry.

The Rebel Riders, en route from Brighton to London, arrived to the sight of rebels performing Discobedience in the centre of the roundabout!

Fossil Fuels Are Killing Us

On Friday we joined Extinction Rebellion groups across the country in a nationwide banner drop, as part of a fossil fuel-focused day of action.  Six banners hanging on three bridges across the M25, spread our message to thousands of travellers, in the constant stream of heavy traffic throughout the day.

Every breath we take

BACKGROUND
Air pollution is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK and contributes to shortening and reducing the quality of life for thousands. 40,000 deaths a year are estimated to arise from air pollution. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is widely understood to be the pollutant that is the most damaging to health and nitrogen dioxide has been identified by The European Environment Agency as the cause of 11,940 premature deaths in 2013 in the UK.
Air quality and climate change are intimately connected, with many common causes. Making major improvements to air quality will make an important contribution to reducing the threat of climate change.
Locally, data on air quality has until recently been limited to a small number of static monitors which measure nitrogen dioxide levels. Data on the levels of other pollutants can only be estimated based on readings from a number of monitoring stations which are outside the area and in some cases 75 miles away.. Data which is limited in scope, difficult to access and some of which is poor-quality hinders public awareness of air quality issues and limits corrective action.

The lockdown implemented as a consequence of Covid-19 presented a unique opportunity to measure air quality in favourable circumstances. Further programmes of measurement will establish the extent to which pollutants are increasing and in which local areas.

The onset of Covid-19 has raised the issue of air pollution to new heights with national and international studies to investigate the connection between nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5 and the transmission of coronavirus and the extent to which the recovery of Covid –19 patients is adversely affected by air pollution.

WHAT WE DID

Measuring air quality during Covid-19 lockdown (the period from mid-April to early May) provided a benchmark against which to assess the deterioration in air quality as the lockdown is eased. At that time, readings were made over twelve locations with three sets of readings taken per day (morning, lunchtime and late afternoon) at each location. Each set comprised an overall index and six main pollutants, giving 1700 pollutant readings in total. Three pollutants – nitrogen dioxide, PM10 particulates and PM 2.5 particulates were selected for detailed analysis.

The monitoring exercise was repeated during the week commencing 8th June. Fourteen locations were monitored i.e. three additional locations and one location replaced from the first set of measurements. The results of this exercise are reported here with 2050 readings, and compared with April/May results. The exercise was further repeated over the same fourteen locations in the week commencing 13th July and these results are reported here.

WHAT WE FOUND

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bP-K1c_d0Bfo2oLfhMEwKBzsMOputYzi/view?usp=sharing

NITROGEN DIOXIDE AS A POLLUTANT
Compliance with Defra limits
The UK limits are measured in units of micrograms/cubic metre (µ/m3). Exposure is limited to 40µ/m3 on a yearly average and c.100 µ/m3 not to be exceeded more than 18 times per year. WHO advises guidelines of an annual mean of 40 micrograms/cubic metre and a 1 hour mean of 200 micrograms/cubic metre.

Health Impact
There is good evidence that nitrogen dioxide is harmful to health. The European Environment Agency reported that the UK had 11,940 premature deaths in 2013 from nitrogen dioxide. The most common short-term outcomes are respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough. Nitrogen dioxide inflames the lining of the lung and reduces immunity to lung infections such as bronchitis. Studies also suggest that the health effects are more pronounced in people with asthma compared to healthy individuals.

Sources
Road transport is estimated to be responsible for about 50% of total emissions of nitrogen oxides, which means that nitrogen dioxide levels are highest close to busy roads and in large urban areas. Diesel cars create more nitrogen dioxide. Gas boilers in buildings are also a source of nitrogen dioxide.

Prevention/Mitigation
Reducing traffic would make a major impact on nitrogen dioxide levels. Travel by petrol/diesel car should become the last option for travel after working from home, walking and cycling, electric bikes and cars, and public transport. HGV vehicles are a major source in town centres. Out of town offloading centres with last mile delivery to locations by low emission vehicles would reduce this source.
Energy efficient housing stock, heated by local heat pumps replacing gas boilers, would reduce the levels of this harmful pollutant.

PM 10 AS A POLLUTANT
Compliance with Defra limits
An annual mean of 40 micrograms/cubic metre, together with levels not to exceed 50 micrograms/cubic metre more than 35 times a year. WHO advises guidelines of an annual mean of 20 micrograms/cubic metre and a 24 hour mean of 50 micrograms/cubic metre.

Impact of pollutant
PM10 particles can settle in the airway and deep in the lungs and cause health problems. The health effects of particle air pollution have been widely studied, and include premature death and the worsening of heart and lung disease, often increasing admissions to hospital.
In 2008, the UK’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reported that the loss of life from particulates is equivalent to 29,000 deaths. More recently studies are investigating the possible link between poor air quality and outcomes such as low birth weight infants and neurological health.

Sources of pollutant
Particles originating from road traffic include carbon emissions from engines, small bits of metal and rubber from engine wear and braking as well as dust from road surfaces. Others include material from building and industry
Wood burning and fires are a source of PM10 particles, as are agricultural emissions where ammonia is converted into particles of ammonium salts. Nitrogen dioxide also reacts with hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight to create ozone, and contributes to the formation of particulates.
Whilst nitrogen dioxide is predominantly local, particulates such as dust, pollen, sea salt, sand and soil can be carried by the wind and therefore some of the source are national and international.

Ways to improve air quality
Reducing traffic would make a major impact on PM10 levels. Travel by petrol/diesel car should become the last option for travel after working from home, walking and cycling, electric bikes and cars, and public transport. HGV vehicles are a major source in town centres and therefore out of town offloading centres with last mile delivery to town locations by low emission vehicles would remove this source.
Public education on the adverse health impact of fires and wood burning would reduce particulate levels.
Manure management techniques such as those practiced in the Netherlands have been shown to reduce particulates. Local farming practices on manure management should be investigated for areas of improvement.

PM 2.5 AS A POLLUTANT
Compliance with Defra limits
The UK limit for PM 2.5 particulates is an annual mean of 25 micrograms/cubic metre. WHO advises guidelines of an annual mean of 10 micrograms/cubic metre and a 24 hour mean of 25 micrograms/cubic metre. The UK’s Clean Air Strategy should take us a substantial way towards achieving the WHO guideline level for PM2.5 across the country by 2030.

Health impact
PM 2.5 particles can easily work their way into human lungs, bloodstream, brain and other organs which can trigger asthma attacks, allergic responses, heart attacks and stroke.
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The health effects of particle air pollution have been widely studied, and include premature death and the worsening of heart and lung disease, often increasing admissions to hospital. In 2008, the UK’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reported that the loss of life from particulates is equivalent to 29,000 deaths. More recently studies are investigating the possible link between poor air quality and outcomes such as low birth weight infants and neurological health. Healthy Surrey states on its website “If we can reduce fine particulate air pollution in England by just 1ug/m3, this could prevent many tens of thousands of cases for coronary heart disease associated with fine particulate air pollution. By 2035, there is strong evidence that this will rise to nearly 350,000 cases”.

Particles originating from road traffic include carbon emissions from engines, small bits of metal and rubber from engine wear and braking as well as dust from road surfaces. Others include material from building and industry and agricultural emissions where ammonia is converted into ammonium salts particles.
In the UK, there are reported to be 1.5 million wood burning stoves in use, with around 200,000 more sold each year. The use of wood in domestic combustion activities accounted for 38 percent of PM2.5 emissions in 2018. Most of these stoves are for pleasure, not for heating.
Whilst nitrogen dioxide is predominantly local, particulates such as dust, pollen, sea salt, sand, soot and soil can be carried by the wind and therefore some of the source is not local.

Ways to improve air quality
Reducing traffic would make a major impact on PM10 levels. Travel by petrol/diesel car should become the last option for travel after working from home, walking and cycling, electric bikes and cars, and public transport. HGV vehicles are a major source in town centres and therefore out of town offloading centres with last mile delivery to town locations by low emission vehicles would remove this source.
Public education on the adverse health impact of fires and wood burning, and in particular the impact on health of wood burning stoves would reduce particulate levels.
Manure management techniques such as those practised in the Netherlands have been shown to reduce particulates. Local farming practices on manure management should be investigated for areas of improvement.