Combatting air pollution in India - the case for clean air zones - George Day

Comment by George Day, Senior Policy Advisor – Markets, Policy, and Regulation, at Energy Systems Catapult. 

The news agenda over the last few weeks has been full of headlines about extreme heat events around the world, providing more evidence of why we need to work together globally to mitigate climate change.

In addition to extreme weather events, cities worldwide are suffering from high levels of air pollution that pose a risk to health. Clean air zones/zero emissions zones offer a potential way to address this, and these have been trialled and rolled out in a number of places in the UK and elsewhere.

Transport is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as having a huge impact on air quality in many cities around the world. So, as we develop policies to decarbonise transport there is clear potential to improve air quality in cities at the same time, particularly in rapidly growing countries like India.

Cutting carbon emissions from transport is key to this, so it has been a pleasure to help support the Energy Systems Catapult’s Innovating for Transport and Energy Systems (ITES) bilateral partnership with Indian experts to address key challenges in this space. ITES aims to carry out joint research into specific sustainable transport issues and enable the piloting, support, and scale up of new sustainable solutions.

I was delighted to chair a fascinating discussion of the challenges and potential to use the concept of clean air zones in the Indian context with three stellar experts: Prof Ashish Verma, of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Amit Bhatt, India Managing Director of The International Council on Clean Transportation and Mohit Sharma, Senior Counsellor with the Confederation of Indian Industry.

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ITES Clean Air Zones within cities

We were able to discuss a report on the UK experience with air quality zones (authored by my Catapult colleague Elle Butterworth) and to consider its potential relevance for India. A key takeaway from the discussion was that the experience of implementing clean air zones in the UK and other countries can be important exemplars and sources of evidence to help Indian leaders understand their potential role in Indian Cities, but it’s important to take account of Indian circumstances, aspirations (e.g., around growth in car ownership) and political realities.

It’s also important to fit lessons from international experiences alongside the lessons and experience emerging from initiatives to reduce urban transport air pollution in different cities (e.g., Delhi and Bengaluru) and states around India.

We also considered the particular challenges and opportunities in India, where progress can be made on road transport and urban air quality, the policy options for Indian cities and what evidence gaps remain. We will shortly be publishing Elle’s report, watch this space!

This is just the start of ITES work on innovation for transport decarbonisation in India. We look forward to working with you to promote innovation and build momentum for decarbonisation of the road transport sector within India.

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