It is always a pleasure to meet Simon Birkett, he runs the Campaign for Clean Air in London with a mixture of passion, commitment and efficiency that is difficult to ignore. He is an incredibly effective communicator, his message is simple. Parts of London are in breach of EU air quality laws and this will continue unless something is done. He regaled me with a mind-boggling array of technical information about areas of poor air quality and information about public opinion. This included a sort of league table from Westminster Council detailing residents concerns. This placed air quality at the top of the league, with dog mess a poor second. So, for the citizens of Westminster at least, poor air quality is more unpopular than dog poo.
In a completely unrelated meeting, I was quizzed by a group of Chinese environmental journalists a few days later. They asked a lot of intelligent and thoughtful questions to which I hope I gave some intelligent and thoughtful answers. However, the one about plastic bags had me foxed. Apparently, one of the ways Beijing attempted to get people involved in a “sustainable games” was to ban plastic bags from the city and they were quite shocked to come to London and see plastic bags in supermarkets. I tried to explain about the democratic process, local authorities and other such issues but I don’t think my answer went down too well.
London 2012 has set objectives to achieve zero waste to landfill in Games time and to achieve low emission zone status. These are both considerable challenges and we will be watching the development of plans to achieve both objectives with interest this year. This will cover everything from food packaging to busses and from low emission earth movers to bio-degradable pooper-scoopers for our four legged friends.