Sadiq Khan strives to exceed "hopelessly inactive" Boris Johnson with fresh air quality proposals
In the first week of his tenure as the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has stayed true to his word to build a cleaner, greener city, having unveiled a raft of new green proposals - including a plan to develop the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) earlier than planned in an effort to improve air quality.
Khan, who was formally sworn in as the new Mayor of London on 7 May, is taking swift action to tackle rising air pollution in the capital, with fresh pledges to implement a 'clean bus corridors' scheme and to have only hybrid or zero-emission double decker buses being purchased in the capital from 2018.
These proposals all form part of a new formal policy consultation on a package of green measures which the Boris Johnson's successor will be officially launching in a matter of weeks.
“I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean up London’s air – our biggest environmental challenge," Khan said. "The previous Mayor was too slow on this issue and the Government has been hopelessly inactive and it’s Londoners who are suffering as a result.
"We need to speed up our efforts, so I’ll be launching a consultation before the summer to kick-start the process. As well as my proposals, I’ll be seeking views on other ways we can do more to clean up the city’s air.
Among the new proposals, Khan is looking to commission a strategy to implement a diesel scrappage scheme; introduce a ULEZ standard for heavy vehicles across London; and put into effect an extra charge penalty on the most polluting vehicles entering central London using the Congestion Charge payment from 2017.
Khan says he will work with the UK Government to tackle air pollution on a national and international level, in order to address an issue which is allegedly 'claiming at least 40,000 UK lives a year' and led to the capital breaching its annual pollution limits in just one week.
The Tooting MP has insisted that action on air quality must be taken immediately to prevent the type of pollution challenge faced around 60 years ago, when the Clean Air Act was legislated following the Great London Smogs of the 1950s.
"I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to meet the scale of the challenge," Khan added.
Since his City Hall election earlier in the month, the new Mayor has already taken big steps to making air quality in the capital one of his top environmental priorities.
Last week, Khan praised environmental law firm ClientEarth for its ongoing legal battle on air pollution, with City Hall confirming that Khan will be directly involved in renewed action against the Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), which is being led by green law firm ClientEarth.
Responding to Khan's latest pledge, ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “Today’s announcement, coming so early in the new Mayor’s term, should send a clear message to the UK government that ambitious and bold action is needed. The government must now up its game so that the whole country can breathe cleaner air.”
Friends of the Earth Campaigner Sophie Neuburg also welcomed the announcement, but pointed out that it had come in the same week that Khan removed a key hurdle in the expansion of City Airport, which will only add to London’s dirty air woes.
“Our new mayor needs to be consistent in tackling London’s filthy air," Neuburg said. "It’s critical that he doesn’t reduce air pollution in one area only to increase it in another.”
Other green policies put forward by the Mayor during his election campaign included banning fracking in London, planting two millions trees, and reinvigorating waste reduction efforts to increase the amount London recycles in order to get the capital back on track with hitting a 65% recycling target by 2030.
London Mayor: What YOU have to say...
Following Sadiq Khan's entry to City Hall, we're asking edie readers their views on the Mayor's ability to live up to his promise to be the "greenest Mayor ever". There is still time to voice your own opinion - will Khan realise his ambition to spark a "clean energy revolution"? Or will he fail to deliver on his bold list of green manifesto pledges?
Cast your vote in our readers' poll and let us know your thoughts about this in the comments section below.
Luke Nicholls & George Ogleby