'Health inequality is a social justice issue': London's Breathable Cities startups take on air pollution

While ULEZ has grabbed the headlines, there is much more being done in London to tackle air pollution.
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London startups joined a showcase event this week to highlight work being done to tackle air pollution.

While the expanded Ultra Low emission Zone (ULEZ) has grabbed the headlines in recent months, much more work is being done to reduce emissions in the capital and beyond.

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Breathable Cities is a startup accelerator programme dedicated to helping early-stage technology-focused startups raise investment. Between June and September 10 startups worked with industry, government and investors on business models.

Farid Kelekun, from Impact On Urban Health, said: "Air pollution affects almost everyone but it is particularly acute in urban areas, inner cities, people who live near main roads. So for me and for Impact On Urban Health, who I work for, that's a big issue.

"Health inequality is a social justice issue so we should be doing more work to ensure the people most affected have a chance, have an opportunity for clean air.

"I think it's really important to have people in positions of power, champions to be able to push the agenda forward, and I think thanks to that we're seeing a lot more conversation."

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Impact On Urban Health was at the Breathable Cities event on Wednesday to support the start-ups taking part, and it began at Elmgreen School in Tulse Hill, Lambeth.

"We wanted to come to Elmgreen School - they're doing so much work already on air pollution with their students," said Mt Kelekun. "We thought it was good a opportunity to collaborate, bring people from the sector in to raise the issue of air pollution."

Farid Kelekun of Impact On Urban Health. (Photo by Jack Abela)Farid Kelekun of Impact On Urban Health. (Photo by Jack Abela)
Farid Kelekun of Impact On Urban Health. (Photo by Jack Abela)

Among the start-ups is Zev City, whose founder, Jerry Wang, said: "The project is to launch an Uber-like transport booking platform, but we are going to put all our profits into local energy projects. So this way we can generate clean energy to offset the trips. So we can have net-zero trips within two years - for every taxi or cab trip.

"I think here is a very good start-up environment that can support a net-zero future. If we want to launch something globally, London is the best place to start."

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Hugh Frost, of Cool Run and Hubl Logistics, aims to remove emissions related to refrigerated delivery. He said 15,000 trucks come into London each day, refrigerated using old technology.

"We need the legislation to come forward," he said. "There's a lot of talk about legislation but it needs to be here and now to say: you're not allowed to do it the old way...There are different solutions out there now that are oven ready, that are ready to go."

Paul Finch, co-founder of Growth Studio and co-designer for Breathable Cities, said: “We’re so proud to have reached this milestone with Breathable Cities. We’re ready to help our startups pitch their innovations and deploy their urgent air quality solutions for the planet."

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