London breaches annual air pollution limits in five days

London has been handed another "shameful reminder" of its toxic air pollution levels as the capital breaches the annual legal limit within five days of 2017.

Environmental groups are calling for strengthened Government action to meet legal limits in London and the rest of the country

Environmental groups are calling for strengthened Government action to meet legal limits in London and the rest of the country

Brixton Road in Lambeth exceeded the European Union (EU) regulation which stipulates that sites are only allowed to breach hourly limits of NO2 18 times in a year. Brixton Road broke that limit for the 19th time last night (5 January), and other locations including Putney High Street and Brompton Broad in Knightsbridge are expected to shortly follow suit.

Green campaigners highlight that the figures, similar to data compiled in January 2016, increase the urgency to tackle air pollution which is estimated to cause 10,000 premature deaths in the capital every year, and around 40,000 early deaths across the UK.

“With the new year only days old, it’s scandalous that air pollution limits for the entire year have already been breached,” Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigner Jenny Bates said.

‘Shameful reminder’

FoE is calling for strengthened Government action to meet legal limits in London and the rest of the country. The group proposes a plan for the phase out of diesel vehicles by 2025, an expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) for all of the capital’s vehicles, and further investment in alternative transport modes such as cycling.

London Mayor Sadiq Kahn has made air pollution crack down a key issue in his early tenure, proposing a wide-ranging action plan to tackle toxic air in the capital. Khan was directly involved in legal action alongside environmental law firm ClientEarth, which won its High Court case in November against the Government over the failure of ministers to tackle illegal air quality levels across the country.

Commenting on the latest figures, ClientEarth lawyer and Brixton resident Alan Andrews said: “This is another shameful reminder of the severity of London’s air pollution and shows why the Mayor has rightly made tackling it a top priority. It is absolutely essential that he now delivers on his promises and that the national government back him to the hilt.”

Among Khan’s air quality proposals includes the implementation of clean bus corridors, an extension of the ULEZ and an emissions surcharge on the most polluting vehicles.

“While these are vital steps in the right direction, we can’t wait another three years for action,” Andrews said. We need immediate action to cut pollution in the short-term and protect Londoners’ health during these pollution spikes.”

Dieselgate continued

The news comes in the same week that new European data has revealed that modern diesel cars produce 10 times more toxic air pollution than large vehicles such as heavy trucks and buses.

Stricter testing applied to large vehicles in the EU contributes heavily to the divergence, according to researchers who are calling for the same measures to be applied to cars. Analysis shows that manufacturers have been able to ensure that heavy duty vehicles are kept below pollution limits when on the road, but that emissions from cars soar once in the real world.

The study was compiled by a research group responsible for exposing the Volkswagen (VW) emissions cheating scandal. VW’s "utter lack of action" since the scandal emerged was recently castigated by the London Mayor, who urged the company to fully compensate Londoners that remain affected.

George Ogleby


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