Well-placed trees halve air pollution, Select Committee told

Professor Prashant Kumar, co-director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey, addressed parliament earlier this month.

Speaking to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which was hearing evidence about the benefit of green spaces in towns and cities, the academic cited new research conducted at one of Europe’s leading institutions for pollution studies. 

‘If you put trees all over London, the difference would be negligible. But if you strategically place those trees around the ource location, it could reduce the exposure [to nitrous oxides] by more than half,’ said Kumar. 

Work undertaken by the University’s School of Sustainability, Civil and Environmental Engineering has demonstrated roadside planting has a significant impact on air pollution from vehicles. However, the size, shape and position of plants makes a huge difference to the effects. ‘Greening’, including the construction of new parks and waterways, and erecting living walls, is also known to improve mental and physical health, and reduce urban heat islands. 

Using this summer’s record breaking temperatures as an example, Kumar explained that areas of Guildford with woodland were at times 13C cooler than the town centre.

He also warned that in order to take advantage of proven climate change mitigation and adaptation methods a skills shortage urgently needs to be addressed, and education on green career opportunities improved. 

‘Public and policy engagement is a really important part of what we do, and it was fantastic to engage with Parliament – seeing MPs understand the value of academic research,’ Kimar continued. 

More on trees, rewilding and greening: 

Wetland conservation most effective ocean-based climate action

WATCH: Creating 10ha of new woodland in North Yorkshire

Can Treefera restore trust in offsetting with AI reforestation, conservation?

Image: Parliament TV


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