The following is my question to Cabinet on 28 April about the Clean Air Zone that the mayor wants to postpone:
In January, young Rife journalist, Deqa Hassan wrote about the silent voices in the green movement. She talked about white liberal middle-class people dominating the discourse on the environment, and those who are absent. Sometimes individuals are represented but never communities. She is talking about unheard BAME communities, and the privileged people who can avoid the externalities of the effects of pollution.
In Bristol, the silent voices are those overrepresented in the death counts such as in Lawrence Hill that has a ‘very much higher than average BME population as % of the total population’. First, it was deaths from air quality – 7.5% of deaths in Lawrence Hill, and 6% in Central ward. (According to the Bristol City Council Equality Impact Assessment on the clean air zone https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/s48444/CAZ%20EQIA%20Final.pdf ) These are the highest proportions in the city.
Now we can add Covid-19 deaths to those lists of sick, silent and dead voices.
We already know that the deaths of around 300 Bristol residents could be attributed to air pollution each year. Now, research has identified a link between air quality and Covid-19 fatalities in Italy and in England, (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.16.20067405v2.full.pdf) .
In Rife magazine, Hassan raises her voice to say: “In Bristol, Fishponds, Stapleton and Easton suffer from the worst air pollution in the entire city. These areas house a lot of Bristol BAME residents and they lie along and collect emissions from the M32. I’ve been given accounts of white colleagues who have changed their cycle routes to and from work to avoid Easton in order to save their lungs just a few minutes in that area, yet BAME families live and work in this pollution every single day.” https://www.rifemagazine.co.uk/2020/01/who-are-the-silent-voices-in-the-green-movement/
Her call is being ignored, however.
According to the latest CAZ update going to Cabinet on 28 April 2020, Mayor Rees has written to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport to “urge the Government to rethink the implementation of Clean Air Zones and the disastrous effect that complying with the timeline, as set out within the legal Direction, will have on businesses in Bristol during this unprecedented time of uncertainty for them.”
Any postponement of the CAZ as requested by the mayor of Bristol will result in additional deaths not only from air quality, but quite likely from Covid-19 as well. The additional deaths are more likely to be from BAME communities.
My question is: How many deaths are acceptable for the mayor of Bristol, in order to avoid the “disastrous effect” that complying with the timeline will have “on businesses in Bristol”?
Will the mayor listen to James Durie, director of Business West and chair of the One City’s Economy Board, who says that in recovering from coronavirus and stimulating our regional and national economy, we must “put the need for clean air at the centre of how we do it”?