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Actively anticipating the unintended consequences on air quality of future public policies (ANTICIPATE) is a NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) funded project forming part of its Clean Air Programme. It will bring together policy analysts and policy makers from UK central government, devolved administrations and local and regional authorities, stakeholders from business and civil society organisations, and academics and researchers to explore forthcoming policy initiatives for their consequences (intended or unintended, positive or negative) on air quality.

The project aims to:

  1. understand better the unanticipated consequences of public policies with regard to air quality;
  2. experiment with and develop techniques to explore the consequences of policies outside of their core areas of intended impact, focusing on air quality;
  3. enable rethinking and improvement of prospective policy options at the appraisal stage to take account of their implications for air quality;
  4. develop guidance about how to identify unanticipated policy consequences;
  5. develop a community of policy makers and researchers that is concerned about the implications of public policy on air quality.

The project is funded for three years from February 2019.

Air pollution has considerable impacts on the UK economy, environment and human health. The costs to the UK from deaths attributable to air pollution are estimated at £20 billion per year, but this hugely underestimates the overall cost to the economy. Additional wider costs to society arise from increased morbidity, putting pressure on the health service and reducing productivity; it also impacts on the natural and built environments, including reducing biodiversity and crop yields. The potential for economic and societal impact from reducing air pollution is huge, but as action to improve air quality becomes more about incremental gains and cumulative action it is increasingly important that we take a systems based approach to identifying the air pollution costs or benefits of policy from across government. The UK policy landscape is a highly interconnected and interdependent system with complex interactions and feedbacks. We often view this as a set of discrete subsystems, rarely considering the landscape in its entirety and thereby limiting effective anticipation of the wider impacts and unintended consequences of policy decisions.

The key Government Strategies referenced will be: