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Breathing life into Liverpool – CBI Economics 2021

New research from CBI Economics, commissioned by Clean Air Fund demonstrates how reducing nitrogen dioxide through a clean air zone in Liverpool can boost the local economy and save lives.

Delays to Clean Air Zone mean Liverpool risks losing out on millions of pounds and opportunity to save many lives, new research shows

Analysis by CBI Economics, commissioned by the Clean Air Fund, shows:

  • Projected 17% reduction in levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide from delayed Clean Air Zone could add 113,000 working hours each year, a minimum boost of £1.5m.[1]
  • Scheme would also prevent at least 30 deaths each year, and save 70 days spent in hospital.[2] This represents around 1% of all Liverpool’s deaths and 4% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions.[3]
  • Limited scope and delays could cost Liverpool. Manchester stands to gain by at least £7m – over four times more – each year, thanks to wider and better developed CAZ plan
  • Research shows 5 areas with nitrogen dioxide levels exceeding legal limits, some by over 20%. [4]
  • Study proves CAZ’s targeted focus on most polluted streets and neediest areas would bolster city’s effort to tackle climate emergency AND its economy

The introduction of a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Liverpool city centre would deliver significant health and economic benefits by reducing dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in key areas, first-of-its-kind research on air pollution shows. However, further delays and a limited scope could see it lose out in comparison to other major cities like Manchester and London.

Last year CBI Economics analysis, commissioned by the Clean Air Fund, found that the UK economy could benefit to the tune of £1.6 billion each year if it were to achieve the guidelines set by the WHO for ‘safe’ air quality. This study from the same organisations builds on this by articulating the economic benefits the CAZ programme would deliver in key UK cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London.

The UK government requires several local authorities to develop a strategy for reducing air pollution, including NO2. Vehicles are the largest contributor to NO2 pollution at roadsides, contributing 80% of the total. This means higher levels of NO2 are typically focused in high traffic areas within city centres. By restricting vehicles from entering heavily populated or polluted areas, CAZs represent the most effective form of targeted local action to tackle NO2 levels in worst affected areas and across the UK overall.

So far, despite declaring a ‘climate change emergency’ and beginning work to redesign the Strand and Lime Street to reduce congestion and air pollution, Liverpool remains behind other cities such as London, Bristol and Manchester, with itsCAZ currently on hold. The findings suggest this will set the city back in its efforts to tackle the climate emergency and build back better from COVID-19, depriving Liverpudlians of substantial health and financial benefits.

Neighbouring Manchester, for example, stands to see more than four times as much new money come into its economy, thanks to a wider and better developed plan for its CAZ. These findings come on the back of existing concerns of a “north-south” divide on air pollution disproportionately affecting the north’s health and its local economies.

By restricting vehicles from entering heavily populated or polluted areas, a CAZ is projected to deliver an average 17% (5 µg/m3) reduction in NO2 in Liverpool. Today’s analysis shows this kind of reduction could prevent – at a minimum – 10 to 30 deaths each year, and save 70 days spent in hospital due solely to NO2 exposure.[5] This represents around 1% of all Liverpool’s deaths and 4% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions.[6]  The additional working hours gained from reducing NO2 exposure would inject an additional £1.5m into the city’s economy.[7]

The UK government sets legally binding limits for NO2 concentrations over a given year and per hour.[8] While Liverpool’s average NO2 concentrations comply with this limit, the most polluted areas in Liverpool exceed it by up to 22% (9) µg/m3[9]. The research suggests a CAZ scheme targeting these areas would be highly effective.

The researchers make clear that the numbers given are the minimum benefits these measures would bring, because their analysis did not measure a number of other factors. For example, bringing down vehicle emissions would likely also reduce other pollutants, improving air quality will reduce health conditions in which air pollution is a secondary factor, and more people will be exposed to cleaner air than just the inhabitants of Liverpool’s city centre.

Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund said:

“For the first time, these numbers provide hard evidence that the Clean Air Zone would help improve the health of both Liverpool residents and its economy, by banning the most polluting vehicles from areas with the most traffic. But other cities like Manchester are set to do better by moving faster and further. The council needs to quickly implement these measures, or Liverpudlians risk missing out on economic and public health gains likely to be seen in other cities,”

Damian Waters, CBI North West Director, said:

“Cleaner air within our major cities is an aspiration not only central to improving public health, but also a business-critical issue for firms in Liverpool.

 

“Congested city streets are all too common a sight, slowing business operations and ultimately putting people’s health at risk. The loss of working hours in Liverpool alone runs into the hundreds of thousands.

 

“Building Back Better must have a green thread running through the very middle of it. That means working together towards reaching our net zero targets and making the most of the economic benefits from lowering air pollution in urban areas.”

Public Health England estimates that between 2017 and 2025 the total cost to the NHS and social care system due to NO2 alone will reach £61 million.[10]  In Liverpool, 16% of all deaths in 2019 were due to respiratory conditions as the underlying cause, and 7% of hospital admissions.[11] Reducing NO2 levels could therefore prevent premature deaths and reduce hospital admissions associated with exposure to NO2.

 

[1]The reduction in NO2 concentrations is based on an estimate of the 2019 annual average NO2 level for Liverpool of 29 µg/m3 and a projected reduction of 5 µg/m3, estimated by Ricardo.

[2] A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document.

[3] This is based on the upper end estimate of 21 deaths prevented, calculated using deaths data from the ONS.

[4] This is based on the maximum annual average NO2 concentration in Liverpool provided by Ricardo.

[5] A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document.

[6] This is based on the upper end estimate of 21 deaths prevented, calculated using deaths data from the ONS.

[7] A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document.

[8] Statutory limit values are legally binding and must not be exceeded. In the case of NO2 this is 40 µg/m3 for the annual mean and 200 µg/m3 for the 1-hour mean. In order for the UK to comply with the limit value, all local areas across the UK must be in compliance.

[9] This is based on the average annual maximum NO2 concentration in Liverpool, provided by Ricardo.

[10] PHE (2018) Estimation of costs to the NHS and social care due to the health impacts of air pollution

[11] ONS (2020) Mortality Statistics