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Leeds to tackle air pollution in climate hackathon challenge

Press release

Citizens, students and business representatives in Leeds have joined the Climathon movement to take part in a global hackathon to find solutions to the city’s air pollution problem.

Organised by Climate-KIC, Climathon brings together the challenges of the world’s cities with the people who have the passion and ability to solve them. The 2017 edition of the global climate change hackathon takes place simultaneously in 108 major cities around the world and is set to be the biggest yet.

The Leeds event takes place on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 October (08.00-20.00 both days) and will focus on air pollution and reducing emissions from the transport sector. It is being organised by the Priestley International Centre for Climate and partners at the University of Leeds in conjunction with the newly formed Leeds Climate Commission.

The Challenge

The title of the challenge, set by Leeds City Council, is:

‘How can Leeds pioneer clean air solutions to tackle air pollution and become a Clean Air/Low Emission City that improves Leeds for residents, business and visitors?’

Leeds is a hotspot for air pollution in Yorkshire and  is the third worst polluted city in the UK. Leeds’ failure to meet EU targets on air quality – it is one of seven major UK cities in breach of legal levels – will incur massive financial penalties by 2020.

Almost 700 people in Leeds will die this year from illnesses related to air pollution. Responding to the health crisis caused by air pollution already costs Leeds’ public health economy £480 million*.

Air pollution has been shown to cause cancer, heart disease, strokes and respiratory illness and pollution from traffic has also been linked with dementia. Apart from the burgeoning health implications, the transportation sector is also responsible for around a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.

Our Leeds Climathon encourages practical and creative approaches to help trigger innovation and enterprise in response to this challenge.

It will be held at ODI Leeds (Open Data Institute node) and will utilise and build on data from previous transport and air hacks that the experienced ODI team has run, as well as using up to date information from Leeds City Council.

Participants will work intensively in teams over the two days to come up with creative solutions to how Leeds can become a clean air/low emission city. Their final proposals will be judged by a panel including Dr James Tate of the Institute of Transport Studies and Neil Walmsley from Climate-KIC, as well as a representative from Leeds City Council. The winning team will be invited to present their solution at the Council’s State of the City event in December 2017.

Dr Tate, who has been busy commenting on the City of London’s new T-Charge, said of the Leeds Climathon challenge:  “Air quality in Leeds needs immediateaction, not deliberating over plans for zones to restrict (pricing)  the movement of polluting diesel from 2020. Hopefully this Climathon will unlock new ideas and kick-start effective, local action.”

Event highlights

Our 2017 Climathon will include the opportunity to take part in raw data collection experiments and have access to a pedestrian simulator and VR kit from the Virtuocity team at the Institute for Transport Studies. The participants will also get the chance to take to the streets to survey the public on the issue.

The event features short talks on air pollution and climate change, sustainable transport, green urban spaces and low cost pollution sensors as well as behavioural change and visualisation techniques.

Leeds law firm Walker Morris will brief on the legal situation regarding air pollution in the UK and participants will also hear from organisations and businesses working on solutions, from a travel tool developed by the NHS to refrigerated transport initiatives.

The Priestley International Centre for Climate has teamed up with the Institute for Transport Studies, the Sustainability Research Institute, the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies and Cities theme  at the University of Leeds, to co-host our Climathon with the newly formed Leeds Climate Commission.

With over 40 participants signed up, the Leeds Climathon is now full (but you can sign up for reserve places).

*Source: Global  Action Plan


About the Climate-KIC Climathon

Climathon is a global 24-hour climate change hackathon which will take place simultaneously in major cities around the world on 27 October 2017.

Climate-KIC’s Climathon brings together the challenges of the world’s cities with the people who have the passion and ability to solve them. Participants gather for 24 hours to engage in a climate-related problem solving workshop. Innovators and entrepreneurs around the world will get to take direct climate action in their own cities by coming up with innovative solutions to local climate change problems.

Now its third year of operation, the Climathon movement has grown tremendously over the past two years, encouraging more innovators across the globe to drive climate action.

Climathon has grown from 19 to 59 cities in the space of a year, operating across 6 continents, creating over 2330 ideas and reaching 16.8 million people worldwide in 2016.

Visit for an overview of partner organisations and the climate change challenges per city.

Follow the Climathon on 27 October on social media via the #Climathon hashtag, and the Climatathon channels and

About Climate-KIC

Climate-KIC is the EU’s largest public private partnership addressing climate change through innovation to build a zero carbon economy. We address climate change across four priority themes: urban areas, land use, production systems, and decision metrics and finance. Education is at the heart of these themes to inspire and empower the next generation of climate leaders.

Climate-KIC is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

About Priestley International Centre for Climate Change

The Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds brings together world leading expertise in all of the key strands of climate change research. As well as forging new international partnerships, the Priestley Centre’s focus is on interdisciplinary research that better links our physical, technological, economic and social understanding of climate change with strategies for mitigation and adaptation. The Priestley International Centre for Climate is the University’s flagship strategic investments in response to the global challenge of climate change, with £7m invested over five years. The director is Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change in the School of Earth and Environment. @priestleycentre #climateleeds


About Leeds Climate Commission

The Leeds Climate Commission was established in 2017 to help Leeds to make a positive choice on issues relating to energy, carbon, weather and climate. It brings together key organisations and actors from across the city and from the public, private and third sectors.

It was launched formally on 7 September at an event attended by over 320 people at Leeds City Museum, addressed by Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, and Lord Deben, chair of the  UK Committee on Climate Change, which informs the work of the Leeds Climate Commission.

The  Commission is chaired currently by Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy, University of Leeds, with Dr Tom Knowland (Head of Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, Leeds City Council) as deputy Chair. It seeks to be an independent voice in the city, providing authoritative advice on steps towards a low carbon, climate resilient future so as to inform policies and shape the actions of local stakeholders and decision makers. It will monitor progress towards meeting the city’s carbon reduction targets and recommend actions to keep the city on track and advise on the assessment of the climate-related risks and adaptation opportunities in the city and on progress towards climate resilience.

The Commission aims to foster collaboration on projects that result in measurable contributions towards meeting the city’s climate reduction targets and the delivery of enhanced climate resilience, particularly in the area of flood risk. It will promote best practice in public engagement on climate change and its impacts in order to support robust decision-making. It  also acts as a forum where organisations can exchange ideas, research findings, information and best practice on carbon reduction and climate resilience.

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