10 policy steps to clean up London’s air

Tackling emissions from gas boilers, imposing tighter standards on diesel vehicles and restricting the most polluting vehicles from entering the capital are among a raft of measures that the next London Mayor should introduce to cut pollution and help people live longer.

That’s according to researchers from think-tank Policy Exchange and King’s College London, who have calculated that, by undertaking 10 key steps on air pollution policy, the London Mayor would help to increase average life expectancy of people born in the capital in 2025 by more than one month, leading to economic benefits valued at over £600m per year.

The ‘Up in the Air’ report’s findings highlight that the road transport and gas combustion sectors are responsible for the vast majority of London air pollution, and moves to cut pollution and road transport would result in a compliance with air quality limits across 99.9% of London by 2025.

The report proposes a comprehensive package of measures to reduce emissions and improve air quality in London, including a scrappage scheme for diesel cars and a rollout of low-emission buses across the city.  

Time for action

Policy Exchange head of environment and energy Richard Howard argued that there is a “legal and moral imperative” to improve London’s air quality.

He said: “Londoners are becoming increasingly concerned about the capital’s poor air quality. The time has come for action not words. The next Mayor of London needs to deliver an ambitious set of policies to clean up London’s air.

“Our policy recommendations seek to deliver air quality improvements as soon as possible, whilst at the same time avoiding penalising people and businesses, and giving sufficient time to adapt.

 “We call on all of the Mayoral candidates to support our ten point plan to clean up London’s air, and hope they will take our findings on board to develop an ambitious air quality strategy for London.”

Robust response

The new conclusions follow a previous report from Policy Exchange which highlighted the problem of air pollution in London and the associated health effects. Research showed that more than 12% of London’s total area exceeded legal and healthy limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2010.

It estimated that the average life expectancy across all Londoners born in 2010 would reduce by two years if air pollution stays at current levels.

Now, experts are warning that the capital faces a substantial air pollution challenge 60 years on from the Clean Air Act and needs “an equally robust response” as that piece of pioneering legislation.

King’s College London director of the environmental research group Professor Frank Kelly said: “It is possible to bring the most polluted parts of London – such as Oxford Street – within legal air quality limits. However this will require a concerted effort both by City Hall and national Government to reduce emissions from road transport and other sources of pollution.”

Air quality has been a hot topic in recent months amid the disclosure of alarming statistics. Last month, a damning report revealed that indoor and outdoor air pollution was ‘claiming at least 40,000 UK lives a year’. Another revelation came earlier in the year when it was revealed that London breached annual EU pollution limits in just one week.

The issue intensified recently when a final warning was sent to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),  threatening legal action if drastic improvement weren’t made to the UK’s approach to tackling air pollution.  

Electric double-decker

In the past few weeks edie has reported on a variety of innovative approaches taken to combat the air quality problem in London. In a brand new round-up series of the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations, edie reported on the launch of the first ever electric double-decker bus set to make an entrance on the streets of London.

Last month, a coalition of the UK’s most prominent environmental organisations laid out a list of key recommendations to create a greener capital – with aspects such as air quality, solar systems and recycling all highlighted as focuses for the next London Mayor.

And earlier this month, the Green Party’s Mayoral candidate Sian Berry insisted she would replace “half-hearted” efforts to tackle air pollution in London with a fully-integrated, zero-emission fleet of public transport vehicles and elevation charges if elected in June.

George Ogleby



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