Invisible Dust

London | Friday 25 May
Pollution level: Moderate

The EU Referendum: Politics, Policies and Air Pollution?


© ‘Human Sensor’ by Kasia Molga courtesy of Invisible Dust, Photo at Manchester Piccadilly by Nick Harrison, 2016.

As we near the EU referendum vote, here at Invisible Dust, we were interested to see a recent article in The Guardian looking at the relationship between air pollution and the EU.

The article discusses how the EU’s 2008 clean air directive, which became law in 2010, has been key in shaping new policies and political conversations about air pollution, most recently in the London mayoral campaign. The EU’s directive is also the reason the government is facing a legal challenge on its ‘woefully inadequate’ plans to tackle air pollution. It is thanks to the EU’s 2008 clean air directive that we can firmly point to the UK’s pollutant emission levels as being deathly, destructive to the planet, and also illegal.

ClientEarth are environmental lawyers who requested a new judicial reviewed of what they argue are the government’s illegal air pollution plans. This is because the government’s proposal breaches their legal duty to produce air quality plans which cut pollution to legal levels in the ‘shortest time possible’. As it stands, dozens of UK cities are forecast not to meet EU limits until 2020 (at the earliest).

Speaking with the Guardian earlier this year, ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews described how, “The government’s new plans to tackle air pollution are woefully inadequate and won’t achieve legal limits for years to come… The longer they are allowed to dither and delay, the more people will suffer from serious illness or an early death.”

Our EU membership has also assisted carbon emissions from cars being driven down: since 2015 manufacturers must ensure average emissions from new cars are 130g CO2 per kilometre, down from 188g in 1998. On the other hand, some critics argue that this policy led to a rush for diesel cars, which in turn contributed to the UK and Europe’s problem with NO2 air pollution.

Invisible Dust is currently working with digital artist Kasia Molga and scientist Professor Frank Kelly, as part of Manchester European City of Science, to create an exciting new project ‘Human Sensor’ which explore the issue of urban air pollution. In July 2016 performs will traverse the city wearing air quality responsive illuminating capes created by Molga. This public performance will offer a rare opportunity for the public to engage with the issue of invisible pollutants though a visible, tangible, live artwork. Data collected though the project will be available to the public though an exciting and ambitious interactive website. You can read more about the project here.

‘Human Sensor’ is commissioned and produced by Invisible Dust in partnership with Manchester, European City of Science. It is supported by The Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Excellence Award and Arts Council England.


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