Whilst the air quality in Scotland is very good, 13 local authorities have designated at least one Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), because the levels of atmospheric pollution are exceeding one or more of the air quality objectives that are in-place to protect human health. These problem areas generally exist along busy sections of road and are associated with high volumes of traffic and a combination of exhaust emissions, brake and tyre wear, and resuspended particulate matter. But there are also other areas, where the levels of pollution are close to exceeding the health based objectives, therefore measures need to be put in-place to ensure that they do not become future AQMAs.
Air pollution is an issue of growing concern, because of its adverse effects on the lung development of young children, and the serious health implications it has for people with pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Road traffic is the most significant source of atmospheric pollution in our towns and cities, and it is the second fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.
Concentrations of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5 ) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are proving to be particularly challenging to address, and there were 34 Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in Scotland at the end of 2015.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Transport Scotland identified the need for a collaborative air quality group that would provide technical support and assistance, to organisations that are working to improve poor air quality that has been caused by emissions from road transport. The Scottish Government supported and endorsed the creation of such a group and so the Transport Emissions Partnership (STEP) met for the first time in October 2012.
STEP encourages a cross-professional approach to managing urban air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, therefore the Core Group is made up of number of transport, planning, health and environmental professionals that provide a diverse range of knowledge and skills from the private and public sectors.
The group will also give consideration to wider air quality concerns (local, regional, national) and engage with other key stakeholders and groups. Part of the objective is to share information and seek technical solutions to problems that exist within the Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). In addition, STEP will also explore ideas and solutions that will prevent further AQMAs from being declared.
A more detailed explanation of STEP and how it functions can be found in the STEP Terms of Reference.