Poor air quality is one of the most harmful environmental public health hazards and it is estimated to cause 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. Particle air pollution was ranked as the fifth leading risk factor for death in the world in 2015 (Cohen et al., 2017). The negative health impacts of particle exposure include respiratory and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity (e.g., aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms), type 2 diabetes, dementia and loss of cognitive function. A significant proportion of Europe’s population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds both the legal limits and the ones recommended by the World Health Organization. This is especially true for cities, where population is exposed to elevated levels of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). And this is the case in cities in the Aix Marseille Metropole.
Although emissions of air pollutants have decreased substantially in Europe over recent decades, (e.g. Guerreiro et al. (2014)) poor air quality continues to harm human health and the environment. Policies to reduce ambient levels of pollutants exist at different levels, from the very local to the European and international wide. Most initiatives, policies and laws are designed by policy makers and governmental entities without involving implicitly the different parts of the society.
Empowering citizens and different stakeholders in the fight of poor air quality has been proved to be a valuable approach. These initiatives have been increasing in Europe in recent years and the UIA – DIAMS (DIgital Alliance for Aix-Marseille Sustainability) project, led by the Aix-Marseille Metropole (AMP), is one of the urban areas that have implemented a vast engagement program around the problem of air quality. This Zoom-In document aims to describe and analyze the public engagement approach followed by UIA-DIAMS, to get a suite of recommendations that other cities and entities can take in empowering citizens, students and stakeholders in the fight of poor air pollution.