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Air quality is an issue that affects all of us who live or work in the port city of Southampton. It has impacts on all sectors of society and potentially on future generations. Poor air quality appears to go hand in hand with economic growth, and with a continuing increase in our standard of living. Hence, we all share responsibility for working towards improving air quality in our immediate environments.

 

The correlation between deteriorating air quality and increasing economic prosperity suggests that to decrease air pollution we would need to rein-back economic growth. Because of this many proposed actions aimed at improving air quality become hindered a complex interplay of competing interests. It is this complexity that makes Air Quality a ‘wicked problem’. As such no single action will produce a ‘solution’ to the problem. Instead a series of pragmatic decisions that attempt to balance some of the conflicting requirements of the different stakeholders provide interim actions through which the problem is managed. Dealing with wicked problems requires a willingness by the relevant stakeholders to engage in multiple, and sometimes difficult, conversations across the different aspects of air quality.

 

The University of Southampton is supporting these conversations by providing a ‘safe space’ in which competing interests can explore pragmatic interim solutions. It also leverages its technological and scientific know-how and data to contribute to these conversations through the Cleaner Air Partnership. The partnership operates over a range of scales. Within the University, the Partnership comprises academic professionals engaged in research on the different facets of air quality. At a local level the Partnership involves stakeholders in the city of Southampton and the Solent region. The partnership has a national and European reach, for example, involving other port cities in the UK and the EU.

 

To find out more about the Southampton Cleaner Air Partnership contact: George Attard (gza@soton.ac.uk) or Jenny Baverstock (J.Baverstock@soton.ac.uk )

 

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