Air quality benefits from multi-year changes in post-pandemic working and travel patterns

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Air quality is significantly affected by levels of economic activity and wider patterns of industrial and domestic consumption. Whilst lower air pollution was frequently reported as a short-term consequence of lockdown, less well quantified are the potential longer term improvements in urban air quality that may arise from more sustained shifts in behavioural patterns during the recovery phase and beyond. For example, these may arise from changed commuting modes, office and school times, and continuation of homeworking. Altered air pollution emissions in cities, even if only sustained for a few years, may deliver disproportionately front-loaded benefits. As the UK transitions towards transport electrification and older vehicles leave the fleet, it is in the years immediately following the pandemic that the largest benefits to air quality are likely to be felt. Lower air pollution during the lockdown phase of the pandemic was not surprising, with NO2 falling widely across the UK. More surprising has been the recent divergence between increasing traffic volumes and the rebound in pollution as restrictions on society have lifted. Understanding the mechanisms behind this, and the potential air quality and public health opportunities, lies at the heart of this proposal. This research is ideally conducted at a time once most the significant lockdown restrictions have been lifted and specifically once schools (and their related transport have resumed). It is therefore timed to begin towards the end of 2020. The real-world impacts of this research may be highly significant, allowing an evaluation changing urban emissions regimes.

Publications

10 25 50