Greenpeace & Generation 2004 lunch-time conference on Air Quality

We all know (with a few exceptions) that we are living in a polluted world. We all know (with few exceptions) that we should do something about it. But what perhaps we don’t know (with few exceptions) is that we need to do it now. No time to postpone our contribution to a clean air and a clean environment. We are at the point of almost no return and we need to act accordingly in order to leave a living planet to our kids and generations to follow.

In March 2018  Greenpeace Belgium presented a report called Mijn lucht Mijn School (My air My school) based on a 4-week study on the air in 222 Belgian schools. And with no surprise, the study indicates that the air our kids are breathing is quite bad. In fact, only 7 schools in Belgium are inside the so called “green zone” (good air quality, see table below), the rest of the schools are in the yellow, orange and light red zone. 5 Belgian schools are in the no go zone – not so many, but still a few. The EU normative on the NO2 particles are set quite high, so one could claim that the majority of the schools have actually clean air, but this is not the case. Everything outside a green zone is already a risk for the health.

Based on these results, Generation2004 is seriously asking what are we breathing in the EC buildings and around (knowing that it is the same air surrounding the schools). We are wondering what is the quality of the air in Luxembourg, Ispra, Karlsruhe, Sevilla and all over the world where our colleagues and families are living. We hope that the EC will carry out a thorough study as soon as possible and not be behind the staff associations/groups on that field.

Our step to actively try to find good solutions to real environmental problems touching us all was a lunch-time event hosted by Generation2004, together with Greenpeace Belgium, in front of a full Grande Salle of the CCP Brussels. Let us be clear: there is no way we can change some of our habits overnight. However, perhaps with some proper planning, we can start taking some small steps to contribute to the end goal: clean air. Why not with better, greener transport, especially public transport? Why not with environmentally-friendlier buses for our children who commute to schools? As we know, and it was confirmed in the conference, the Parents’ Associations of the EU schools in Brussels are already committed to do so; however, they are faced with an almost empty market, with near to 0 providers for the so called “green buses”.  And when talking about this, let us not forget that this would mean to turn “green” hundreds of buses to meet the transport needs of our kids to and from the European Schools in Brussels. Well, perhaps we would not need so many if we were to apply the geographical criteria to the enrolment procedure in the European schools, as mentioned during the conference. That would definitely be something to consider, as according to the current practice some kids are commuting in (dirty) diesel buses from their place to a European School on the other side of the city – although they literally live in front of another European school offering the same language section.

Another option mentioned was the (soon to come) ban on sale of new diesel cars and (a little bit later) ban of all petrol engines cars. Looks like we all will need to go electric: not cheap at the moment, but most probably a fact for all motorists in the future.  Closure of the streets for motorists are already the reality in many European cities and Brussels is no exception in this respect.  New documents on mobility are published almost on a daily basis, some measures already implemented (more bikes, electronic cars, financial support to public transport tickets, etc.) and the EC is no exception in that. Our colleagues can definitely see this in their daily commuting. The recent opening of the electric car parking in EC Madou building is a living proof. However, despite all these efforts, we need to do more. For some this will not be a very short term pleasant experience, but we need to look beyond that.

At the end of the day remember: All we need is clean air that we breathe.

Conference materials:

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