Nothing can compensate for the human misery and economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But lockdown has had some remarkable effects on the environment, including a dramatic fall in the levels of pollution.

The streets of central Oxford, all but empty. A far cry from the congestion which previously made the city one of the pollution hotspots of our region.

Pollution levels in Oxford have fallen dramatically since lockdown Credit: ITV Meridian
  • Paul Scott, Environmental Quality Officer, Oxford City Council

Levels of harmful emissions from vehicles have plummeted 60% in recent weeks. Perhaps the cleanest it's been for a generation.

With fewer aircraft and less traffic, the air around us is not only cleaner, but much quieter too.

In a survey just carried out here by the countryside charity CPRE, two thirds of people said protecting green spaces should be made a higher priority after the lockdown.

  • Kia Trainor, Director, CPRE Sussex

While levels of pollution have fallen dramatically, it's come at a terrible cost in terms of human suffering and economic damage.

Religious leaders have been pondering whether we can emerge from this crisis with a more sustainable way of life.

Religious leaders have been questioning whether we could live a more sustainable way of life Credit: ITV Meridian
  • Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester

As more of us gradually return to the roads, to work and to our busy lives, there's the danger that pollution levels will quickly increase.

Scientists at Brighton University are using a state-of-the-art air quality research station to monitor the situation as it evolves

Environmental experts say the lockdown has allowed a climate experiment Credit: ITV Meridian

"Without doubt the pandemic has been utterly devastating affecting so many different people in so many different ways, but at the same time it has inadvertently given us the biggest ever global experiment, providing us with a window into the future to see the sort of things that could happen to our atmosphere and climate if we were able to reduce our pollutants emissions as our policies are trying to do.

*mermoscg [A] 2:49 to Dr Kevin Wyche, Atmospheric Scientist, University of Brighton
Pollution levels have fallen dramatically since lockdown Credit: ITV Meridian

While the air may be clearer, the path ahead for us is less so.

But perhaps this strange breathing space for nature could point the way to a greener future for all of us.