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New data shows traffic pollution level rose by nearly a third in Glasgow during COP26

London, 7th December 2021: New data released today by Aeternum, a provider of low cost, unplugged sensors designed to accurately monitor air quality, finds that levels of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) increased by nearly a third (30%) within a mile of COP26 in Glasgow last month. NO₂ levels reached a peak during the conference on 8th November, when Aeternum’s sensor recorded an average of 48 micrograms (µg) per metre cubed for the day – 93% higher than the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2021 Air Quality Guidelines, which recommend nitrogen dioxide levels should not exceed an average of 25µg/m³ in any 24-hour period.

Aeternum’s air quality sensor is positioned under the Kingston Bridge, less than a mile from the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) where COP26 was held. Carrying the M8 motorway through the city centre with five traffic lanes in each direction, the Kingston Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in Europe, with around 150,000 vehicles travelling across it every day.

Aeternum’s sensor found the average concentration of NO₂ during the two weeks of the conference was 34 µg/m³ – an increase of 30% (8µg/m³) from October’s average of 26µg/m³. The average level of NO₂ began to drop in the days following the end of the conference, falling back down to 29µg/m³ by 29th November (see Figure 1).

Aeternum’s data follows a similar trend to two air quality sensors installed by the UK’s Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) around Glasgow during the same time period, which recorded a peak in nitrogen dioxide during the conference (see Figure 2).

Nitrogen oxides are produced in combustion processes, and road traffic is the principal outdoor source of nitrogen dioxide, suggesting traffic pollution caused the increase in nitrogen dioxide in the air during the two weeks of the conference. Higher levels of nitrogen oxide can contribute to health issues, particularly among young children, asthmatics and adults with heart and respiratory disorders.

Paul Carter, Founder of Aeternum, said: “Our sensor data clearly shows an increase in average nitrogen dioxide levels under Glasgow’s Kingston Bridge during COP26, compared to the month prior to the event. When we compared our findings with those of DEFRA’s monitoring stations, we identified a general trend that average NO₂ levels increased during the event and later fell to almost its previous levels.”

He continued: “There has been much speculation about the potential environmental impact of holding such a large global event that saw many delegates arriving and departing via modes of transport that are harmful to the environment. Our sensor is positioned along a main walkway leading to the SEC, enabling us to gather a clear picture of the air many attendees were breathing during the conference. By accurately monitoring hyperlocal air quality, local councils and communities can gather a clear, real-time picture of the impact of pollutants in the air local people are breathing – and make informed decisions about how best to manage them.”

Aeternum deployed its air quality sensors in Glasgow to support the award-winning Design Engineer Construct! learning programme from Class of Your Own (COYO), a UK-based social business that focuses on the built environment to enhance secondary school STEM education. This year, COYO’s Design ‘The COP’ – The Centre for Our Planet challenge helped secondary school students to explore 

how STEM can be used to make environmental and social impact, particularly in the construction industry. From June until the close of The COP challenge and COP26, Aeternum’s sensor data enabled participants to incorporate air quality into their design considerations and develop methods to mitigate pollution in the future.

Alison Watson MBE, Founder and CEO of COYO, said: “It’s so important the children and young people explore the STEM of the real world, especially something that literally impacts every breath they take! We look forward to continuing our work with Aeternum to support the DEC programme in 2022, providing schools with a great opportunity to embed this critical topic in the curriculum.”

Figure 1. Average nitrogen dioxide levels in Glasgow according to Aeternum sensor (1st Oct – 29th Nov)

Figure 2. Nitrogen dioxide levels in Glasgow according to Aeternum sensor and DEFRA sensors

Nitrogen dioxide levels in Glasgow

Methodology and notes to editors

Aeternum’s micro sensors are powered without the need for public mains allowing for easy installation. Data collected by the sensor is made available through a secure wireless network so measurements and analytics are viewable anywhere, anytime. Data is retrieved using a secure wireless network specifically designed for the application, using either NB-IoT and LTE-M networks deployed on existing mobile operator networks or long-range wide area networks (LoRaWAN) using unlicensed spectrum.

Aeternum’s Kingston Bridge sensor was installed at the beginning of June 2021 at the top of a billboard pole. Data for this study spans 1 October to 29 November, with multiple measurements collected every hour.

  • Before COP26 refers to 1 Oct to 29 Oct
  • During COP26 refers to 30 Oct to 14 Nov (excluding Bonfire Night* and the following 2 days)
  • After COP26 refers to 15 Nov – 29 Nov

* Bonfire night is one of the most polluted dates in the UK’s calendar, including the nearest weekend when many displays take place. It is therefore not an accurate representation of typical air quality conditions during COP26.

About Aeternum

Aeternum helps you make better decisions about your local environment – how much or how little pollution exists, the health of the air that you breathe and more. 

We build a network of small sensors located throughout your community that run on their own power using solar power to collect and send air pollution and other key data to you wirelessly. We provide tools and analytical capabilities so that you can take positive action now to improve your environment and make it less harmful. Aeternum’s micro sensors are easy to install and can be quickly deployed throughout a community.

You can learn more about Aeternum at

About Class of Your Own (COYO)

 Established in 2009 by former land surveyor Alison Watson MBE, Class of Your Own Limited (COYO) is an award-winning consultancy specialising in STEM education for the digital built environment. 

COYO’s ground-breaking “Design Engineer Construct!” (‘DEC’) learning programme is delivered in schools, colleges, universities and other learning establishments across the United Kingdom and internationally. Through innovative, contextualised approaches to teaching and learning, DEC has enabled thousands of young people from all backgrounds to explore and access aspirational career pathways in architecture, engineering, surveying and construction. 

Working closely with industry through their ground-breaking ‘Adopt A School’ programme, COYO enables organisations to deliver genuine social, economic and environmental impact.

Find out more here: 

Media Contact 

Lucie Bickerdike
Adam Hudson