ClairCity newsletter ClairCity newsletter January 2018 - Page 3
A human problem
A world of chimneys
For many years, air quality policy has assumed that clean
air and carbon reductions could be largely achieved
through technological measures. Up to now, air quality
management has created a world populated by chimneys
and vehicles, analysed through forecasting and models
built upon average usage characteristics and emission
factors, and consisting of polluting machines and objects.
However, there has been little consideration of the people
and the social frameworks which lead to these objects and
emissions. This leaves human behaviour to remain
‘Business As Usual,’ for example by introducing cleaner
cars, but allowing traffic flows to continue increasing.
As well as innovative modelling and
broad public engagement, ClairCity is
bringing a new theoretical dimension
to air quality management
Where are the people?
Despite great successes at the end of the last century, the
process of cleaning up (particularly light duty) vehicles has
been shown to have problems, locking in relatively new
but poorly performing cars into vehicle fleets for a decade
or more. It is becoming increasingly evident that we will
need changes to both behaviour and lifestyles to achieve
our social and environmental goals, not just in terms of air
pollution, but also co-benefits in terms of greenhouse
gases, noise, public space and so forth.
To overcome the failure to incorporate people into the
picture, we need to find a significant role for social science
in air quality management. Social science approaches that
put human behaviour at the heart of the analytical frame
can help to re-frame air pollution as a human problem
rather than a purely technical one.
Shifting the field
In support of this shift in air quality management, related
fields have already addressed some similar concerns.
There has been considerable behavioural research in the
areas of transport and energy consumption, but there is
little direct involvement of air quality management
processes with the basic evidence base. Where more
behavioural measures are taken up into air quality
management plans, this appears to have been done from
selecting a set of off the shelf measures rather than a
greater involvement and understanding of the social
science evidence and research behind it.
The aim of ClairCity is to lead air quality policy and
management towards a social science approach,
demonstrating the evidence, methods and outputs that
can be implemented. Through the work in our six pilot
cities and regions, we will be able to establish how putting
citizens at the centre of air quality management can be
Tim Chatterton, Laura De Vito, Eva Csobod, Peter
Szuppinger and Gabor Heves.
A longer version of this article appears on the ClairCity
website. This is an edited extract from the ClairCity
report “Review of Social Science in Air Quality and
Carbon Management” which will be publicly available in