London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan has laid out new plans to combat air pollution in the capital, including an additional pollution charge and an expansion of the planned ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zones).
The new charge will sit on top of the £11.50 per day congestion charge, and will cost £10 more from 2017 for all cars sold before 2005.
“With nearly 10,000 people dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, cleaning up London’s toxic air is now an issue of life and death,” said Khan. “It is the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act of 1956, which was passed following the great London smogs of the 1950s. Just as in the 1950s, air pollution in London today is literally killing Londoners. But unlike the smoky pollution of the past, today’s pollution is a hidden killer.”
Indeed London isn’t the first capital to try and clean up its act in terms of pollution. We’ve already reported on Paris banning polluting cars on weekdays, Mexico City keeping 1 in 5 cars off the roads every day, and Oslo banning all private cars from 2019.
Khan launched a consultation on the proposals at Great Ormond Street hospital for children. The hospital’s Chief Executive, Dr Peter Steer, said: “The mayor’s drive to clean up the capital’s air is fantastic news for our patients and staff. Children living in highly polluted areas are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood, yet improving air quality has been shown to halt and reverse this effect.”
So how serious is air quality as a health issue? Well, despite not much publicity, it seems very. 40,000 early deaths are caused annually across the UK by air pollution, and back in April a cross-party committee of MPs labelled it a ‘public health emergency’. The government is facing a new legal challenge over the adequacy of its plans to tackle the issue, having already lost a previous case in 2015.
Khan recently published research showing many schools in the capital are in areas exceeding safe legal pollution levels. His plan to cut air pollution includes extending the ULEZ, which will charge polluting cars and lorries from 2019, beyond central London to the North and South Circular roads. Drivers would not pay both the ULEZ and the new £10 charge; and the latter will not apply to taxis.
The new plan will also develop a detailed proposal for a national diesel scrappage scheme, which the government would have to implement. A scrappage scheme – paying owners to scrap their dirty cars – is supported by some MPs but other groups argue the money would be better spent supporting public transport and cycling and walking.
However, there has been concerns as to the impact the new measures could have on small bsuinesses. Tony Devenish, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, said “We all want to tackle NO2 emissions but most vehicles built after 2005 perform just as poorly as those built before so the cut-off date is meaningless. Small business owners and ‘white van drivers’ with older company vehicles will effectively be taxed for travelling into the capital to work – that cannot be right.”
How will the new anti-pollution measures affect you? Would it now be cheaper to liftshare with someone with a newer car? Let us know in the comments below!
Author Lex Barber