Sadiq Khan: I want business on-board to ignite London’s green revolution

EXCLUSIVE: Businesses are front and centre of Sadiq Khan's ambitious plans to create "the greenest city in the world", the London Mayor told edie today (10 October) as he unveiled detailed proposals to improve the capital's air quality.

Khan this morning kicked off phase two of a public consultation on his air quality plans to establish an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London in 2019 – a year ahead of schedule – and introduce a capital-wide emissions surcharge, known as the T-charge, for older, polluting vehicles in October next year.

Speaking exclusively to edie at the consultation launch at St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School in Southwark – an area which would be included in the proposed ULEZ expansion – the Mayor insisted that his air quality plans will be implemented gradually, to give the private sector enough time to “clean up” their operations.

“Businesses want me to clean up the air in London,” Khan said. “But what I’m deliberately not doing is doing things overnight with a big bang – I want to take businesses with me.

“That is why, for example, I want to introduce a statuary consultation in relation to the T-charge; that is why I am lobbying Government to introduce a national diesel scrappage scheme to help businesses, who for very good reasons have invested in diesel vehicles.

“I’m not bringing in the ULEZ overnight – if you’re a businessman with a large fleet of vehicles, you need time to change your fleet. What businesses will recognise, though, is that their customers – Londoners – want them to be cleaned up, and that’s what we want to happen.”

The first phase of Khan’s air quality consultation, released in the summer, attracted more than 15,000 responses from Londoners, with the majority in support of the early rollout of the ULEZ and the £10 T-charge.

Cleantech cluster

Khan’s wide-ranging action plan to tackle toxic air in the capital forms part of a broader mayoral strategy to ignite a “clean energy revolution”, with the ultimate aim of running London on 100% green energy by 2050. Khan, who succeeded Boris Johnson in May, has previously pledged to create more plug-in points for electric vehicles (EVs) and implement “clean bus corridors” across the city as ways to reach that goal.

Today, Khan also underlined his support for plans to develop a new business district in west London which could transform the capital into a global centre for cleantech development, with the Mayor insisting that innovation and technology will play a key role in accelerating Britain’s green economy. 

“Innovation and technology are crucial,” Khan said. “With technological advances, electric car batteries now run far better than they did five years ago. We’ve got to use this innovation to make sure we encourage people to change their behaviours, and I’m sure we can do that.”

‘Sick and unlawful’ 

Khan’s comments come a week before environmental law firm ClientEarth presents a renewed case to the UK Supreme Court against the UK Government over its apparent “failure” to meet key deadlines for legal limits on air pollution. In his first week in office, City Hall confirmed that Khan would be directly involved in this legal action, and Khan today reiterated the importance of ClientEarth’s case in holding the Government to account on air pollution.

“It is their frustration that the Government in previous years haven’t done enough,” Khan said. “It is important that the case is heard and it’s important in reminding your readers that the air in London is a killer. It makes you sick, it’s unlawful, and we’re going to do something about it.”

Commenting on the second phase of Khan’s toxic air consultation, ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “The Mayor has taken another big step in the right direction. We welcome his proposal to introduce an expanded ULEZ in 2019. However, we also want to see other options on the table, such as expanding the Zone to the whole of greater London and restricting access to central London to zero-emission vehicles.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message to the Government that it needs to get a grip with this public health crisis. This is a national problem that needs a national solution – that is why we are taking them back to court next week.”

ClientEarth’s clean air court case against the UK Government for illegal levels of air pollution will be heard in the High Court on 18 and 19 October. The air quality consultation closes on 18 December.

George Ogleby

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