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Leeds hosts ground-breaking event to tackle air pollution

The Plants for Pollution team: Charlie Page, Ana Gallardo and Lucia Southworth.

By Roseann Hughes

THE PEOPLE of Leeds need to take action to change their city’s ranking as the third worst in the UK for pollution, according to climate change experts.  

Glasgow and London are the only two cities ahead of Leeds in the league table for toxic air – but campaigners took part in a worldwide event, Climathon, last week to find solutions to the health-affecting problem.

Catherine Graves is the secretariat assistant for the Leeds Climate Commission, set up in September this year between Leeds City Council and Leeds University.

She said Leeds is also the fifth worst local authority in the UK for nitrogen oxide pollutants, which can come from car exhausts.

“These statistics are pretty shocking. The problem is, because it’s invisible, people don’t always know where the hotspots are.

“This can affect anyone’s health. But by working together to find solutions, I think massive change can happen,” she said.

This comes after an event held last Thursday and Friday, which brought together a wide range of people to develop their ideas and pitch their plans to a judging panel.

One of the participating teams, ‘airLert’: John Upton, Reshmy Prasad, Vishnu Kumar, Anzir Boodoo and James Spillsbury

Leeds Climathon focused on air pollution solutions at the Open Data Institute on Duke Street.

Dr James Tate, from the Institute for Transport Studies, was one of the judges.

He said: “We need ideas that are financially viable and can raise awareness. It’s people who change things, not academics.”

Tom Knowland, head of sustainable energy and climate change at Leeds City Council, said anyone in Leeds can help cut down on pollution by taking easy steps.

He said: “If I could recommend one thing for people to change now, I’d say to swap one journey with a less polluting one a week, such as bike, train or bus.”

Two winning ideas came out of the event. Be a Stop Idle, a pun on Pop Idol, encourages people to turn off their engines while waiting in traffic and Plants for Pollution wants to build living walls to absorb air pollution and create oxygen.

Charlie Page, a sustainability and environmental management student at Leeds University, was part of one of the winning teams, Plants for Pollution.

She said: “The facts can be over-whelming. But it’s important not to be too negative if it stops people taking action.”

The winners will go on to pitch their ideas to the State of the City event in early December.

The event in Leeds was part of the biggest climate action event in history – Climathon 2017.

Over 100 cities in 45 countries held events for people to develop their ideas to tackle climate problems over 24 hours.

Climathon 2017 at the Open Data Institute, Leeds

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