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ClairCity: Citizen-led air pollution reduction in cities

Prosjektdeltakerne i ClariCIty
Project leader Svein Knudsen with senior system developers Mirjam Fredriksen and Håvard Vika Røen Photo: Ingunn Trones, NILU

From the NILU Annual Report 2019: The ClairCity project aims to increase awareness about air pollution and carbon emissions in cities by looking at how people’s behaviour contributes to the problems. Unlike many other projects, ClairCity focuses on involving citizens in deciding on the best solutions, since citizens are among those ultimately affected by poor air quality and climate change.

“We got in contact with as many citizens as possible to better understand their motives and the choices they make regarding environmentally friendly behaviour”, says Svein Knudsen, senior scientist at NILU. Knudsen works at NILU’s Innovation Department and is NILU’s project lead for ClairCity.

Co-creating solutions

“We also wanted to know more about citizens’ viewpoints about how to solve problems related to air pollution and climate change”, Knudsen continues. “This is why we developed engaging resources, such as an app and a game, to facilitate interactions with non-scientists. We have been creative how we engaged with citizens, encouraging them to have their say.”

The results have been used in the development of solutions for each partner city, based on individual air pollution models. The ClairCity scientists also used research on the different policy and governance landscapes to ensure that their solutions would be incorporated into the decision-making processes in each partner city.

An innovative engagement process based on citizen-led scenarios resulted in a range of different political options. NILU was involved in the scenario development and compiling the final report about these activities.

“NILU had several tasks in this project”, explains Knudsen. “Our scientists have been working on assessing the health impact of particulate matter (PM) and NO2 in the participating cities and urban regions. This assessment is a crucial part of the ClairCity generic model and can be applied to any other city.”

NILU’s second main task was running the innovation process that defines products and services from the project and makes them available to a broad range of potential customers after the project is completed. The third main task was to develop the GreenAnt system. Its scope is to map citizens’ travel patterns and changes in these patterns due to measures taken by the municipality.

Learn from the ants – become a smart and green traveller

Ants are constantly on the move, finding the smartest route to reach their goal. That inspired both the name and the concept behind the GreenAnt system. GreenAnt consists of two parts – a web page for creating a user profile and accessing data, and a smartphone application for data collection.

After development and extensive testing at NILU, GreenAnt has also been tested in the different ClairCity partner cities/regions. Receiving user input and engaging users in testing the system’s functionality has been very useful.

“GreenAnt offers a wide selection of application options”, explains Mirjam Fredriksen. She and Håvard Vika Røen are the senior system developers behind the GreenAnt app.

“The system has been designed to provide insight into people’s daily travel habits, and their reaction to changes. It visualises how people’s travelling behaviour causes air pollution and contributes to GHG emissions. The system also indicates areas of high air pollution, helping people avoid travelling in zones where exposure can be high. Through this, people can be motivated to not use their car because of high pollution emissions.”

GreenAnt can also be used for strategic planning of activities and in campaigns run by governmental entities, NGOs, service providers, and industry. For instance, if a municipality wants to close a road for general traffic, GreenAnt can be used as tool to analyse changes in people’s behaviour before and after the road closure.

“We see a lot of potential in the GreenAnt system”, Fredriksen concludes. “It can basically be used anywhere to quantify change. This opens up for many options and will keep the system alive beyond the official end of the project.”