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Meet Katie, a WSP Environmental & Sustainability expert

Meet Katie, a WSP Environmental & Sustainability expert

 September 07, 2021

Work at WSP and you can help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges; clean up past legacies, create new developments that preserve and improve our environment, and find ways to use and re-use resources. WSP builds safe and future-ready infrastructure to support places where communities can thrive. WSP employees bring global expertise to their local communities, they dare to challenge the status quo, and they are empowered to accelerate meaningful change.

Here we learn more about working within the environmental and sustainability arena as we hear from sustainability expert, Katie Fremantle.

Developing a framework for sustainability 

Katie Fremantle works as an Environmental and Sustainability expert for WSP in the UK and developed a Bridging Framework to assess air quality policies across five of the UK's major cities. Her useful tool forms a baseline that local authorities can use to close the policy gap between the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) and UK’s Ambient Air Quality Directive requirements (AAQD). This helps alleviate negative impact of on wellbeing and the environment.

"Transport pollution is the main cause of air quality problems in the UK. Nitrogen dioxide or NO2, a gaseous air pollutant released into the atmosphere from the emissions of vehicles, power plants and construction equipment, is currently exceeding legal limits, causing serious health risks to people and the planet," explains Katie. "Breathing in air with high levels of NO2 can cause damage to our lungs and lead to physiological damage to the body. It can irritate our airways, aggravate respiratory diseases like asthma, and worsen symptoms like coughing, wheezing or breathing problems."

"Nitrogen dioxide also has negative effects on the environment. High levels can significantly affect plant growth and reduce crop yields. Nitrate particles also play a role in the formation of smog, producing a haze often seen over cities."

While studying for her master’s in Environmental Consultancy at the University of the West of England (UWE) in 2018, Katie set out to investigate what was going on at ground level. Asking the questions, “Why is nitrogen dioxide exceeding legal limits? What are Local Authorities doing about it? And how well are their policies performing?”

A paper written by two Dutch academics, Elena Bondarouk and Duncan Liefferink, gave her the basis for her report. They assessed the performance of air quality policies at a local level in the Netherlands, so she adapted their work for the perspective of the UK. Further research on air quality academic literature found that UK air quality policy didn’t align entirely with their EU equivalent. So Katie created a Bridging Framework that would align the two.

Highlighting the importance of collaboration

The most successful policies are from those who collaborate with a variety of Local Authorities and departments, giving them access to more resources and funding, which can make a substantial difference for the future effectiveness of our air quality. 

In her work, Katie shortlisted five cities that were around the same size; Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, and created four categories (relating to the main sources of air pollution) for them to be scored against; transport, public health, planning and development, and energy production and use. She added context to those cities which includes looking at the geographical setting, the date at which policy was written, what expertise was used to develop local policy and how much funding was put behind it. Each category was assessed and scored to a maximum of three points where a city’s policies may be effective (or not), in what area, and their respective reported progress towards improved local air quality.

"By using this Bridging Framework, Local Authorities can assess their policies and use it as a guide for what they need to focus on to improve their policy and implement it. For example, it may highlight issues around their cycle network and a lack of parking bays near the train or bus station which, if installed, could enable a smooth transition within the public transport system. Equally, it could highlight that they are performing well on, for example, their hydrogen bus roll-out. It’s subjective to the city," explains Katie.

"The good news is that, during my research, I found that considerable efforts are being made to improve air quality on a local level. The most successful policies are from those who collaborate with a variety of Local Authorities and departments (e.g. transport), giving them access to more resources and funding, which can make a substantial difference for the future effectiveness of our air quality policy in the UK."

Work alongside industry experts like Katie at WSP

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