Cork City Council becomes first local authority in the country to launch an air quality strategy

Cork City Council becomes first local authority in the country to launch an air quality strategy

In keeping with the goals laid out in Air Quality Strategy, earlier this week work began on the installation of five high-tech ‘CityTrees’ in Cork city centre. Photo credit: Cork City Council

Cork City Council became the first local authority in the country to launch an air quality strategy today - a plan which sets out short, medium, and long-term initiatives to improve air quality in the city.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher formally launched the five-year strategic plan at one of the two city centre locations where five ‘CityTrees’ have been installed.

Initiatives outlined in the strategy include creating a ‘last mile electric vehicle delivery’ service for HGV (heavy goods vehicles) in the city; the creation of low emission zones /clean air zones and increasing tree cover in the city including the development and enhancing of ecological corridors, the securing of wetland areas, increasing the number of pocket parks and parklets and the expansion of areas to be used to offset carbon levels.

The council has said next year, it expects to plant up to 1,500 trees, following the planting of 1,200 this year – a sixfold increase on the year previous.

Cork City Council has also said it will continue to closely work with residents and community groups, ESB, University College Cork (UCC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Munster Technological University (MTU) and Healthy Cities, amongst other groups to develop and implement the Air Quality Strategy.

At the core of the plan is the existence of an air quality monitoring system.

Cork City Council has worked with UCC to develop and improve upon the existing air quality monitoring infrastructure.

The partnership has included the creation of the Cork City Air Quality Dashboard.

Cork City Council has said the potential to develop a trial, air quality forecasting system will be investigated in collaboration with experts from UCC’s Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry.

CityTrees 'one aspect of the jigsaw puzzle'

In keeping with the goals laid out in Air Quality Strategy, earlier this week work began on the installation of five high-tech ‘CityTrees’ in Cork city centre. 

The four-metre tall units are being installed at Patrick Street and on Grand Parade.

Using Internet Of Things (IOT) technology, these pieces of street furniture – which are covered in a mixture of moss cultures - filter harmful pollutants out of the air.

The council has said each CityTree can filter the air usage equivalent of up to 7,000 people per hour.

The air filtering performance of the CityTrees is regularly measured using air quality sensors and information about the city’s air quality is displayed to the public.

Speaking to The Echo earlier this week, John Sodeau, emeritus professor of chemistry at University College Cork (UCC) with research interests in atmospheric chemistry and aerobiology said while this feature is an advantage, the CityTrees will have limited effect in terms of improving air quality.

“They have the advantage of being able to show the public how dirty the air is in that particular spot using sensors mounted in them and close by.

“Unfortunately they still only filter out particles from the immediate vicinity around the tree.

“They have little or no effect in improving air quality at distances more than a few metres away,” he said.

Commenting on the launch of the Cork City Council 2021-2026 Air Quality Strategy, the Lord Mayor said the structures form just “one aspect of the jigsaw puzzle” in terms of the initiatives to improve air quality in the city.

“Up to 1,300 people are believed to die prematurely each year from air pollution.

“The CityTrees project will really start the people of Cork talking about the wider impact of air pollution.

“This project is associated with ongoing efforts to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of the council’s operations and future growth as witnessed by the Government’s €3.5 billion investment in sustainable transport in the city via the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) and the recent pedestrianisation of the Marina and city centre streets and our ongoing investment in our cycling and pedestrian infrastructure,” he continued.

David Joyce, Director of Operations with Cork City Council described the CityTrees as “a site-specific solution to the challenge of air pollution”.

He said the CityTrees also act as “an attractive piece of street furniture or meeting point” and are in place in areas such as London, Berlin and Glasgow.

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