‘Another promise not acted on by the government’

AN ambitious government scheme to measure air quality at 300 locations has ground to a halt, with only two of 46 monitoring devices deployed at schools actually working.

Deputy Rob Ward described the air-monitoring scheme as ‘another promise not acted upon’ by the government.
Deputy Rob Ward described the air-monitoring scheme as ‘another promise not acted upon’ by the government.

The deterioration of the project has been criticised by Deputy Rob Ward, the architect behind a proposition that led to the States declaring a climate crisis in 2019. He described the air-monitoring scheme as ‘another promise not acted upon’ by the government.

Environment Minister John Young said the project had collapsed because Covid-19 had prevented technicians from visiting the Island to maintain the devices.

In 2019, the Environment Department announced the initiative, in partnership with UK tech firm AirSensa, to install at a range of locations sensors that could detect gases such as nitrogen dioxide and CO2, as well as temperature and humidity. Every school was due to be fitted with a sensor.

But, in a response to a States written question tabled by Deputy Ward, Deputy Young confirmed that most of the units had now failed.

‘I understand this as being new technology and it is dependent on the sensors communicating correctly, analysing the data and then having a UK academic institute to assure the data accuracy,’ he said.

‘These steps are totally within the control of the supplier. Unfortunately, they have not been able to bring the resources over to Jersey to attend to the essential maintenance to date following Covid-19 restrictions, so most units are experiencing communication issues.

‘Therefore, of the 46 real-time air-quality monitors which have been distributed to schools and educational establishments, only two were correctly transmitting data as of the end of last week.’

Deputy Young added: ‘While I appreciate that this is disappointing, I would like to reiterate that the government has not paid for this equipment; it is owned by the supplier.

‘If an alternative scheme is required, I have asked that officers research alternatives and consider any associated financial implications, recognising that there is currently no funding allocated to this work.’

A further 12 units have been deployed at other locations, bringing the total number of sensors in the Island to 58. The original plan included the installation of 300 sensors in total.

Deputy Ward said that he did not accept the excuse of Covid-19, citing Jersey’s ongoing work to promote itself as a ‘high-tech centre’.

‘This is another example of how promises have been made and not acted upon since we declared the climate crisis. There’s always some reason why something can’t work,’ he said. ‘We were told about this grandiose scheme where we would be monitoring air quality all over the Island, including in schools, but, unfortunately, once again nothing is happening.

‘We are always being told that we have the fastest broadband in the world and are a great digital centre, and yet we can’t even maintain this air-monitoring system.’

He added: ‘If we are going to take action on the climate crisis, we need to gather information and make decisions based on the evidence we have.

‘We do have areas in the Island where air quality is poor and, if parents see that they are dropping their children off in areas where it could damage their health, then they are more likely to think that we need to do things differently.

‘Since the climate crisis was declared, we have been told plenty of things would happen. And absolutely nothing has.’

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