Mayor Ken Livingstone’s strategy, published on 31 January, aims to “reduce air pollution to the point where it poses no risk to Londoners’ health” and will now go to the Greater London Assembly (GLA) and various functional bodies, such as Transport for London, for consultation. It will be published for public consultation in May, with a final version published in November. The draft strategy comes hot on the heels of calls for hydrogen buses, after Department of Health statistics showed that far more Londoners die from traffic related pollution than from road traffic accidents (see related story).

“As traffic is the primary cause of air pollution in London, my Strategy concentrates on reducing emissions from road vehicles, specifically targeting those that are most polluting,” Livingstone said, announcing that there are four main aims in the strategy: traffic reduction; the promotion of less polluting engine technology; the reduction of vehicle emissions; and promoting alternative fuels.

Among the proposals contained in the strategy are:

  • “tough” emissions targets for GLA and functional body vehicle fleets, including London buses, setting the standard for others to follow;
  • to encourage the greater adoption of emissions reduction measures, the Mayor will award an ‘Environmental Business Marque’ to firms who reduce emissions from their vehicle fleets, perhaps by retrofitting catalysts and particulate traps, or setting high standards of vehicle maintenance;
  • together with the Association of London Government and Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Mayor will conduct a study of the feasibility of a Low Emission Zone in London. This concept, pioneered in Sweden, requires high polluting categories of vehicle to achieve set emissions targets before they can drive into a zone of the city;
  • public information campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and the impact that Londoners could have on improving air quality.

“While recognising the difficulty of achieving National Air Quality targets in London and the importance of working together with the London boroughs and the DETR, my Strategy sets out a comprehensive series of measures to tackle a problem that Londoners consider to be one of the biggest drawbacks of living in the capital,” Livingstone said. He made reference to a recent MORI poll which found that 57% of Londoners think London is an unhealthy place to live and half want the Mayor to prioritise improving air quality.

The GLA says that London is the most polluted city in the UK and one of the worst in Europe, and that although improvements have been made in recent years, London still breaches UK and EU Air Quality Objectives for pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulates.

Pollution is most serious in Central London, and along the Transport for London Road Network and the M4 corridor including Heathrow. While road traffic is the primary cause of the two most problematic pollutants, some categories of vehicles are far more polluting than others, Livingstone said. Heavy goods vehicles, for example, make up only 5% of traffic, but contribute nearly a third of nitrogen dioxide and 63% of fine particles emissions.

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