TL;DR — Air Quality Management 2.0 is a concept that focuses on engaging key stakeholders in collaborative partnerships in order to create more effective, sustainable air quality management programs. Though air quality has improved substantially over the last 50 years, traditional air quality monitoring and management still faces a slew of challenges — such as poor data transparency and access, inadequate data analysis capacities, a lack of planning to ensure long-term sustainability, insufficient collaboration across relevant sectors, and a need for greater community engagement. By implementing Air Quality Management 2.0, stakeholders — including communities, regulators, analysts, and technologies — can engage in sustainable, effective action for cleaner air.
This blog is part of a series focusing on the concept of Air Quality Management 2.0, which aims to link together key stakeholders, from communities to industries, in the work to create sustainable air quality management programs and improve public health when it comes to the negative impacts of air pollution. Read our white paper on Air Quality Management 2.0 here.
Where we’re at with air quality management
Although air quality has improved substantially over the last half-century, there are still many gaps left behind in air quality monitoring and management — like the collection of more local-level data, especially in communities that suffer disproportionately from poor air quality — that result in serious public health consequences.
Bringing together a myriad of stakeholders — including communities, regulators, emissions reduction partners, innovative technology, data analysts, and industry — is an essential part of comprehensively addressing air quality management.
The exciting work of our partnership with Breathe London — a project that brings together hybrid networks of regulatory-grade monitors and low-cost sensors to facilitate collaboration across stakeholders — acts as a blueprint that other cities around the globe can follow to improve their air.
The Breathe London network is composed of over 400 low-cost sensors across 33 different boroughs of the city, bringing access to air quality data to over 8 million citizens. Breathe London works from the ground up, supporting community-led monitoring projects and deploying low-cost sensors in ways that best reflect their needs.
The promise of collaborative air quality management
Effective air quality management involves engaging a diverse range of stakeholders to drive positive policy change and action for cleaner air.
The introduction of new air quality monitoring technologies — such low-cost sensors which can be seamlessly integrated with regulatory monitoring — are enabling a wide range of applications with air quality data, including:
- Tracking spatial variability in urban air pollution and hotspots to monitoring industrial emissions and their spread
- Quantifying exposure levels
- Analyzing pollution sources
- Forecasting air quality
While implementing high-resolution air quality monitoring to collect high-quality data is a vital first step in air quality management, data alone does not always translate into tangible results. Meaningful engagement between stakeholders and impact-oriented data analysis are the keys that transform data into meaningful action.
Challenges that cities typically face when implementing air quality management at scale
City agencies may come across a variety of challenges and pitfalls when beginning to implement air quality monitoring and management programs.
Gaps in data
When only regulatory-grade air quality monitors are used — which are more expensive and, thus, often few and far between when compared to low-cost sensors — it is easy to miss the complete variability in pollutant levels within a single urban area.
Monitoring networks can leave out hotspots and other areas of high air pollution in cities — especially those that have long suffered from disproportionately poor air quality levels.
Another pitfall is that this monitoring is often limited to criteria air pollutants using traditional methods of measurement. However, data shows that health disparities are often driven by hazardous air pollutants and air toxics.
Data analysis and access
These traditional management programs can also have poor data transparency and offer inadequate public access to data. Whether due to data not being shared with the public or because it is not presented in a user-friendly way, inaccessible data means the public is missing out on crucial information about the air they are breathing.
These networks may have inadequate data analysis capacities when it comes to drawing key insights about air quality data that has been collected, especially when it comes to non-regulatory data use.
Programs can also lack evidence-based design and evaluation when it comes to emission reduction programs and policies, which interferes with the clear measurement of progress over time.
Lack of stakeholder engagement and cross-sector collaboration
Having air quality monitoring and management that does not operate in close contact with policy, stakeholder engagement, and other real-world data applications is another limitation that prevents an air quality management program from being effective.
Air quality management programs can sometimes lack in properly involving other sectors that are linked to air quality action — including transport, urban planning, and health agencies — in addition to environmental agencies in air quality management initiatives. These other sectors tend to only have limited involvement in air quality management work, despite having a crucial role in this multi-sectoral approach to improving the state of the air.
Cities may implement projects without plans to ensure the long-term sustainability of their infrastructure and operation, which prevents large-scale and long-lasting changes to the quality of their air.
By not adequately making space for community voices to be heard in air quality management decision-making, despite these communities disproportionately bearing the brunt of air pollution impacts, air quality management programs can fail to address actual community concerns.
It is also essential that they not only involve communities in what has happened in the past but also what is currently happening in regard to their air quality. Communities must be involved in present, active work to reduce air pollution and understand exposure’s impacts.
Introducing Air Quality Management 2.0
The concept of Air Quality Management 2.0 emphasizes the importance of coordinating action across stakeholder groups, including communities, regulators, analysts, and technologies.
For communities, Air Quality Management 2.0 means that:
- Air quality action involves sustained and genuine engagement
- Management strategies are responsive to community needs
- Community engagement helps inform what regulatory actions drive air quality improvements, and which actions do not, based on the trade-offs and impacts on the community
Because recognizing community impacts is a key part of taking stock of air pollution’s impacts on a city — and community engagement is essential to effectively addressing issues and bringing about change — the role of communities in air quality management cannot be understated.
Regulators have the legal and professional responsibility for air quality management, making them a key actor to engage in air quality management work. Air quality regulations set the basis upon which clean air work can be expanded, enforced, and incorporated into more permanent policy frameworks.
Importantly, expanding the work to enforce air quality standards and providing strategies to achieve these targets requires the support of the public and of different stakeholders across sectors.
The data analysis capacities that are necessary to drive policy changes and tangible improvement from air quality data are a huge undertaking — and one that regulatory agencies were not originally designed or resourced to tackle.
Sharing high-quality, calibrated air quality data across stakeholder groups helps to drive greater analyses and collaboration that are needed to tackle an issue as large as air pollution.
Air quality monitoring technologies, like calibrated low-cost sensor networks, should be leveraged alongside traditional regulatory-grade monitoring systems to supplement their data and fill in the gaps left behind.
Low-cost sensor networks must be carefully designed and deployed — including the use of rigorous quality assurance/quality control procedures — to close these gaps and to provide high-quality data to support emissions reduction policies and programs.
Bringing Air Quality Management 2.0 to your city
As more and more people recognize the dire impacts of air pollution and the need for a new approach to addressing these disparities in urban areas, Air Quality Management 2.0 is being embraced by many cities around the world.
Breathe Cities, an initiative modeled on the work of Breathe London, will work to support effective air quality management in cities across the globe, especially prioritizing the reduction of air pollution’s impacts on public health and the climate.
This partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, C40 Cities, and the Clean Air Fund will provide funding to cities to support their air quality monitoring, community engagement, and capacity building as local leaders drive more equitable policy change.
At Clarity, we truly believe that the future of clean air is collaborative. We applaud the work of Breathe London and eagerly look forward to the positive impacts that the Breathe Cities initiative will make in cities across the globe.
Learn more about the Breathe London model and download the Air Quality Management 2.0 white paper here.
Interested in measuring air quality for cleaner air and a healthier climate? Get in touch with our team to learn more about our Sensing-as-a-Service solution for governments, businesses, and community organizations, using our Clarity Node-S monitors and Modules that do not depend on infrastructure like WiFi or power — making them especially resilient during environmental disasters.