Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 17th June 2020

It’s now twelve weeks since the UK went into lockdown, following the path taken by countries around the world. This situation is historically unique, never before have so many faced such great restrictions on their day-to-day activities. As a result, it has not only forced people to adopt new ways of living, but also given researchers the chance to investigate the impact such changes on people and the planet.

Many of you will have seen photographs of cities around the world showing clear skies where once was smog, the effect of massive cuts in pollution brought on by the lockdown. At peak restrictions, countries have experienced a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of over a quarter.

This has been great for the planet, but the breathing space is remarkably brief as emissions rebounding sharply following the easing of lockdown measures, most noticeably from road transport. That’s not only bad environment but also our health, with new evidence emerging every year of the long-term damage caused by poor air quality, the greatest source of which in the UK being people’s cars.

Pollution in Crawley may not be visible, but our air quality is significantly worse than most of the UK, with increasing amounts of the town below minimum standards. No one has found a way to solve this yet other than having fewer petrol and diesel engines on our roads, but to achieve that we need to build a greener travel infrastructure.

Next week Crawley BC’s cabinet will vote on two proposals. The first involves working with neighbouring authorities to create a new county-wide network of charging points, enabling greater numbers to switch to electric vehicles. The second is a costed plan for delivering a town-wide cycle network and walking zones, making it easier for people to ditch their cars. Ultimately, tackling pollution means each of us doing what we can to cut our emissions. While we can’t do that for you, by building a greener infrastructure the council is working to make it as easy as possible for people to do what they can to save lives and the planet.

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