London ‘lucky” to score C- for air quality

London has taken sixth spot in a new ranking of 23 European cities on air quality, but mayor Boris Johnson is "lucky" to have been rated so highly as he has no plans to comply with air pollution laws until after 2030, if ever.

The “Sootfree Cities” rating, compiled by Friends of the Earth Germany and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), evaluated air pollution levels from transport, concentrating on measures put in place in cities over the past five years and looked at air quality plans for the next five years to take into account changes that were already in the pipeline.

London received a ‘C-‘ ranking – below Zurich, Copenhagen, Vienna, Stockholm, Berlin, who came in at 1st to 5th respectively. Johnson’s city was praised for “showing effort to tackle its high levels of air pollution over the last years, including by implementing a congestion charge”.

‘Staggering gap’

But Simon Birkett, founder and director of Clean Air in London, said the Mayor was fortunate for his city to have been rated so highly. “Frankly, the Mayor is lucky to get away with a ‘C minus’ on air quality after seven years in office,” Birkett said.

“The gap between London and the top five cities, which expect to comply with EU legal limits within two years, is staggering. The Mayor has no plan to comply with air pollution laws – which are breached by a massive margin along many central London roads – until after 2030, if ever.

“The best indicator of the Mayor’s progress is the evidence he submitted to Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee on 24 October 2014 that initial analysis undertaken by King’s College London suggests that total average reductions in NO2 concentrations across London at roadside sites were in the order of 12% from 2008 to 2013. This is pitifully slow.

“People may have been misled by the Mayor’s claims that Stockholm and Zurich have worse air quality than London.”

Lagging behind

London has not achieved significant reductions in PM10 or NO2 – analysis Johnson submitted to MPs last year suggested NO2 reductions on London’s roads were around 12% on average from 2008 to 2013.

And while the top five cities of Zurich, Copenhagen, Vienna, Stockholm and Berlin have either met, or are due to meet, the EU limits within the next two years, London has no plans to comply with NO2 legal limits until after 2030.

Air action

The release of the Sootfree Cities rating comes on the same day that the City of London Corporation, in partnership with leading environmental charity Global Action Plan (GAP), has launched its Cleaner Air Action Day.

The Action Day will support commuters, residents and business to deal with the increasing threat of dangerous air pollution sweeping across the capital.

Teams of ‘Air Quality Wardens’ will be out in force busting the myths around engine idling among drivers, and alongside the 30 businesses that have already pledged their support, asking motorists to turn their engines off when parked.

Andy Deacon, Managing Partner at Global Action Plan, said: “Today’s initiative is all about raising greater awareness of the deadly impact of air pollution in London and supporting drivers to take practical and positive steps to remedy the situation.

“We want all of the City’s businesses to get involved and sign-up to our pledge to reduce engine idling among their drivers, after all it is better for wallets, engines and everyone’s health to do so.”

edie staff

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