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Communities with lower levels of income and education are often more impacted by air, water and noise pollution, as well as climate change. So are the elderly, children and other vulnerable groups. In many cases, vulnerable groups are exposed to multiple environment- and climate-related hazards.
How to protect the vulnerable
Many regional and city authorities are proactive in reducing the impact of environmental hazards on the most vulnerable members of society:
- Improved spatial planning and road traffic management, such as the introduction of low-emission zones in city centers reduce exposure to air pollution and noise in areas where socially vulnerable groups live.
- A ban on certain domestic heating fuels, like coal, also leads to improved air quality in low-income zones, possibly with subsidies for low-income households.
- Examples of actions aimed at protecting children from aircraft and road noise include the provision of noise barriers and protective structures in outdoor play areas.
- Many national and local authorities have put action plans in place to improve emergency response to help the elderly and other vulnerable people during heatwaves or cold spells. This is often supplemented by community or voluntary sector initiatives.
Who benefits from green spaces in cities?
Parks, urban forests, tree-lined streets and riverbanks support urban well-being by providing space for rest, relaxation and exercise, and by keeping temperatures down. However, not everyone across Europe enjoys equal access to green space in cities.
The health benefits of urban green space are well recognised for children, whose physical and mental development is enhanced by living, playing and learning in green environments. The elderly also benefit significantly from visiting green and blue spaces, through improved physical health and social well-being.
Our briefing reviews the evidence of socio-economic and demographic inequalities in access to the health benefits derived from urban green and blue spaces across Europe.