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Embracing Cleaner Air Together on National Clean Air Day

Air pollution is a pressing concern for many, and there is a widespread desire for cleaner air. However, significant gaps in public knowledge persist, and the call for action on air pollution needs to reach those in power.


Since 2018, Global Action Plan has been tracking public attitudes and behaviours related to air pollution through a comprehensive poll of UK adults. The latest findings from the Clean Air Public Insight Tracker (CAPIT), conducted with Opinium in March 2023, reveal a robust public demand for improved air quality. An overwhelming 93% of people across the political spectrum agree that air pollution should be a top government priority. More than half of the UK public are worried about the impact of air pollution on their own health.


While concern about air pollution and the desire for cleaner air are strong, public understanding of the issue’s prevalence, its health impacts, and its sources is often lacking. For instance, fewer than two-thirds of survey respondents identified road transport as a major source of air pollution, despite it being the largest contributor to nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution. Even fewer recognised that domestic burning is a significant source of PM2.5 emissions, which are tiny but highly harmful particles.


There’s also a common misconception about local air quality; only 15% of people think air pollution levels are high in their own areas, while 39% believe they are low. In reality, it is estimated that 97% of UK addresses are in areas exceeding World Health Organization guideline limits for air pollution. Furthermore, many are unaware of the full range of health impacts. Although 70% know that outdoor air pollution can affect lung health, far fewer understand its links to cognitive decline (23%), mental health issues (20%), low birth weight (18%), or strokes (18%).


To effectively tackle air pollution, people need not only to understand the problem better but also to know what actions they can take. Air pollution is a solvable issue, yet public awareness of effective measures is limited, and even those who are informed often don’t act due to systemic barriers. For example, around half of the respondents believe that walking or cycling instead of driving short distances can help reduce air pollution, but only 34% are actually doing this. Four in ten believe taking public transport instead of driving is effective, yet only two in ten are doing so. Similarly, 44% think switching off the car engine when stationary is effective, but only 26% are doing it.


The gap between knowledge and action is a significant problem. Many people want to use public transport or cycle more, but without the necessary infrastructure, they cannot. This disparity highlights the need for both increased public awareness and systemic changes to support clean air initiatives. Understanding the issue and knowing the solutions are crucial steps towards making informed choices and supporting effective policy changes.


By harnessing the collective power and influence of the membership sector, Climate Action for Associations (CAFA) aims to accelerate the transition of entire sectors, systems, and professions towards sustainability. On National Clean Air Day, CAFA can help your association take impactful steps towards reducing air pollution and promoting environmental health.


Support your membership organisation’s climate action journey. Learn more here.



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