During this year’s Challenge Poverty Week, we take a look at the links between poverty and air pollution.

Scotland’s transport system exacerbates climate change and inequality. Low-income communities are exposed to more toxic traffic fumes than people who live in more affluent areas. In addition, car ownership is lower and bus services less frequent.

Low-income groups are breathing more toxic air than other communities for a number of reasons, such as people in poverty are more likely to live in urban areas close to main roads and motorways.

We also know that while people in poverty are disproportionately *impacted* by air pollution, it is wealthier people who disproportionately *cause* pollution in the first place. Scottish Government statistics shows that wealthier households own more cars, drive more frequently and further.

This is a consequence of our car-dominated fossil fuel reliant transport system, within our unequal society where power is relatively concentrated. Communities in poverty, breathing toxic air and ignored by our public transport operators, must be at the centre of a fundamental shift in how we think about transport.

What can we do?

We need a Just and Green Recovery from the economic damage of Covid-19 that prioritises a publicly owned transport system that works for everyone.

An end to building new trunk roads, many of which are built through or beside low-income communities and lead to worse pollution.

As wealthier people have more cars, drive further and more frequently, traffic measures that favour cars over other transport modes can worsen inequality.

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Gavin Thomson

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