Sadiq Khan: VW must fully compensate Londoners for dieselgate

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the Volkswagen Group (VW) to improve its "utter lack of action" and fully compensate Londoners that remain affected by last year's 'dieselgate' emissions scandal, on the same day that the UK Government has been ordered to produce a new UK air quality plan by July 2017.

VW has been called upon by Khan to produce a progress update on its commitment to re-programme the ‘defeat devices’ found to be hidden in some of its most popular vehicles, of which there is an estimated 80,000 in the capital.

A mere software-based fix is “woefully insufficient”, Khan said, in comparison to the generous compensation and buy-back settlement agreed with US regulatory authorities for US consumers.

Making the call yesterday (21 November), Khan said:There is no excuse for the utter lack of action VW has taken in London since the ‘dieselgate’ scandal came to light. I want to see a proper commitment from them to fully compensate the thousands of Londoners who bought VW cars in good faith, but whose diesel engines are now contributing to London’s killer air.”

VW claimed that thousands of vehicles qualified for London’s Congestion Charge discount because they emitted less than 100g CO2 per kilometre and met the ‘Euro 5’ emissions standards. Khan is now calling on the car manufacturer to reimburse Transport for London (TfL) for the £2.5m it lost in potential Congestion Charge revenue, which Khan says he will will use to fund a new air quality programme for schools.

Khan believes these actions will help rebuild VW’s stressed reputation and prove a vital step in delivering wider efforts to phase out high-polluting vehicles from urban areas.

The Mayor’s call follows several policy announcements in an effort to crack down on toxic air in the capital, which is now estimated to lead to around 9,000 deaths a year. Speaking exclusively to edie recently, Khan insisted that his air quality plans will be implemented gradually, to give the private sector enough time to “clean up” their operations.

High Court action

Khan has been directly involved in legal action alongside environmental law firm ClientEarth, which earlier this month won its High Court case against the UK Government over the failure of ministers to tackle illegal air quality levels across the country.

And yesterday, it was revealed that the Government was ordered by a High Court judge to draw up an improved plan by July next year which must bring air pollution within legal limits. Setting out his order in court, Justice Garnham gave the Government until 24 April 2017 to produce a draft plan and until 31 July to deliver a final one.

The judge rejected the Government’s suggested timetable which would have allowed it until September 2017 to produce a final plan, saying it was “far too leisurely”.

Speaking outside the court yesterday afternoon, ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “It is very clear that the Government must now act swiftly and decisively to protect British people from toxic and illegal air pollution.

“We are delighted with the ruling and the fact the judge did not agree with the government’s timetable for tackling this public health crisis.

“The Government has said throughout this process that it takes air pollution seriously. Until now, it’s actions have not lived up to this claim. Now is the time for the Government to prove that it truly cares about people’s health and the environment and take decisive action to tackle illegal air pollution in this country.”

edie podcast: Sadiq Khan and ClientEarth’s air quality crusade

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton were the special guests on a recent edie podcast episode which investigated London’s ongoing air quality crisis along with the Government’s broader green policy priorities, and the role of business in delivering a low-carbon economy. Listen to the podcast below and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes for free here.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie