Sadiq Khan calls for greater powers to tackle construction pollution

Sadiq Khan has written to Defra Secretary Michael Gove to ask the Government for greater powers to tackle construction pollution, as industry experts call for urgent action to improve the state of sustainability in the UK built environment.

With half of the capital’s air pollution caused by non-transport sources, the London Mayor has requested new powers to implement a “hard-hitting plan of action” that combats emissions produced from machinery and the domestic burning of solid fuels.

In a statement on Friday (29 September), Khan said: “With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer and I am calling on Government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

Specifically, the Mayor wants greater powers to impose minimum emissions standards for machinery used on construction sites, which constitute the second largest source of ultra-fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in London.

Khan expressed concern that current standards for non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) such as diggers and bulldozers are not being satisfactorily applied by London boroughs. He called for the creation of a DVLA-style national database for NRMM to assist the new powers.

The Mayor also wants the Clean Air Act amended to create zero-emission zones for the burning of solid fuels like wood and coal. Reform of the Clean Air Act would help the Mayor to set tighter emission limits for new domestic heating appliances like wood burning stoves, which release pollutants known to have a detrimental effect on health.

‘Decisive action’

Around 22% of UK carbon emissions come from the operational and embodied carbon of the built environment. This statistic, along with several other pieces of evidence, was published by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) on Friday as part of a series of online infographics to mark the organisations 10th anniversary.

Other stand out statistics highlight that waste from construction, demolition and excavation represents 59% of the total UK waste, while 10% of UK carbon emissions come from heating buildings alone.

Commenting on the scale of the sustainability challenge facing the built environment industry, UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: “This project was designed to bring the data that is available to life, and in collaboration with experts, to highlight where we urgently need to either measure new aspects or take different actions to address the magnitude of the challenges we face.

“Now more than ever, our industry must show leadership and galvanise around some of these issues. We need bold and decisive action to make sustainable development truly second nature in the built environment.”

George Ogleby

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