Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brussels-Capital Region Government and Brussels Environment announced the launch of the Brussels Clean Air Partnership, a new initiative to tackle air pollution in Brussels, seat of the European Commission. Coinciding with the kick-off of the EU Green Week 2020, this new partnership, alongside Bloomberg Philanthropies’ ongoing work across Europe, supports the European Union’s ambitious goals set out in the European Green Deal to cut pollution levels in cities.
Air pollution poses a critical public health risk, claiming over 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, according to the latest European Environment Agency (EEA) report, and an estimated 9,000 lives every year in Belgium alone. In a first for Brussels, this partnership will bring together government, universities as well as local and international research centers and NGOs in a science-based, coordinated initiative to curb air pollution throughout the Brussels-Capital Region. This initiative will harness the power of data by advancing the deployment of innovative technologies to monitor air pollution, filling in data gaps on ground-level local pollution data.
The Brussels Clean Air Partnership will implement a wide range of projects to support effective policy to reduce air pollution in the city. These projects will use low-cost monitoring devices to provide critical data on the sources and levels of air pollution in Brussels, further our understanding of the health impacts, particularly on the most vulnerable communities; and educate and raise awareness among residents and stakeholders in Brussels. These projects were designed and will be implemented by local organizations including Hasselt University, the University of Antwerp, the International Council on Clean Transportation and NGOs such as the BRAL, Hypothèse and Les Chercheurs d’Air.
The Brussels Clean Air Partnership directly responds to the European Green Deal’s mission to ensure clean air and engage communities in environmental action and comes at critical time with studies showing a strong correlation between exposure to particulate matter and increased cases of COVID-19. In line with the European Climate Pact, this initiative is also a prime example of how partnerships and citizen action can create practical and data-driven solutions to two of the biggest issues facing our world today.
The data collected by the Brussels Clean Air partnership projects will be made available to the public and will be used to inform the ambitious policies implemented by the Brussels Government to combat air pollution in the region. These actions include drastically scaling-up sustainable mobility practices and committing to the gradual phase out of diesel vehicles by 2030 and of petrol and LPG by 2035.
Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region said: “I am delighted with this partnership, which is fully in line with my Government’s policy; it allows for an improvement of the network of measuring points, which is necessary to have an even more detailed view of the situation, as well as a participatory approach, since it is also based on collaboration with the citizens and the scientific world.”
“Air pollution remains a major threat to public health across Europe, including causing health problems that put people at greater risk from COVID-19,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, 108th Mayor of New York City. “Fighting for cleaner air is good for our health, our economy, and the environment. Our new partnership with the Brussels Capital Region Government and Brussels Environment will take on this pressing challenge. Together, we’ll bring together government, universities, nonprofits, and citizen groups to strengthen air quality monitoring and support research, and keep building a healthier, more sustainable future.”
“Today, people living in Brussels are exposed to unacceptable levels of air pollution. Protecting the health of our citizens and taking transformative actions to make our city greener must be our priority. To do this, we will need everyone. By bringing together this large coalition of stakeholders around the same objective, Brussels now has a crucial advantage to successfully undertake the transition to a low-carbon society” said Alain Maron, Brussels Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Energy.
The partnership will support Brussels’ efforts to reduce air pollution across these key initiatives:
- Monitoring air pollution: Les Chercheurs d’Air and BRAL will mobilize Brussels residents and schools to monitor air pollution levels over time by taking air quality measurements in playgrounds in schools, outside homes, and other locations across the city. The data will create a map of air pollution exposure and identify air pollution hot spots. Over 3,000 measuring kits will be distributed. The University of Antwerp will provide scientific expertise, building on their experience in large-scale air quality projects.
- Measuring vehicle emissions: Diesel cars remain the main source of air pollution in Brussels. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) will conduct measurements on vehicle emissions in key Brussels locations to identify the vehicles that contribute to the greatest air pollution in the city and their real-world emissions.
- Assessing health impacts on children: Hasselt University will research the health impacts of air pollution on 220 school children of different socio-economic backgrounds by monitoring their exposure to air pollutants in school and at home.
- Developing air quality curriculum: Hypothèse will help teachers integrate air quality lessons into education programs throughout kindergarten, primary and secondary level in 130 schools by developing educational activities and tools, and therefore help raise awareness on the sources and impacts of air quality in Brussels.