London mayor Sadiq Khan launches action plan to combat capital’s toxic air

Cleaning up: London’s mayor Sadiq Khan

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled an action plan to tackle London’s most polluting vehicles and clean up the capital’s air.

Around 9,500 Londoners die from long-term exposure to air pollution every year and the latest research reveals over 443 schools in the capital are in areas exceeding safe legal pollution levels.

Unveiling his plan, Mayor Khan said: “The scale of the failure to tackle the problem is demonstrated by the failure of the government and the previous mayor to meet legal pollution limits. Urgent action is now needed to ensure Londoners no longer have to fear the very air we breathe.

“That’s why I’m launching a hard-hitting plan of action to clean up our filthy air. Tough challenges call for tough measures, so I’m proposing a new £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles in central London from 2017, followed by an even stronger crackdown on vehicles pumping out hazardous pollutants.

“This is just a small part of the wider measures I’m consulting on to protect the health of Londoners. And I urge everyone to respond and share their views and ideas to help tackle this public health emergency.

“I am also calling on the government to work with me and to take more action to tackle air pollution. We can’t do this alone in London. The government should seize the spirit of the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act and pass new legislation fit for the 21st century. This needs to provide new powers and legal protections to ensure that the existing legal limits for air pollutants are retained following Brexit.”

A £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles and an extended Ultra-Low Emission Zone form part of a public consultation launched last week, the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act.

The Mayor is asking Londoners for their views on his Clean Air Action plan, who have until Friday 29 July 2016 to feed back on the first round of the consultation.

More consultation will take place later this year and the Mayor’s Office says some measures could be implemented as early as 2017.

Key proposals include:

Implementing a £10 emissions surcharge (dubbed the ‘T-charge’) on the most polluting vehicles entering central London from 2017. The charge would apply to all vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emission standards (broadly speaking those registered before 2005) and will cost an extra £10 per day on top of the existing congestion charge.

Introducing the central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone one year earlier in 2019

Extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (‘ULEZ’) beyond central London from 2020: for motorcycles, cars and vans, to the North and South Circular; and for lorries, buses and coaches London-wide

Developing a detailed proposal for a national diesel scrappage scheme for Government to implement

Bringing forward the requirement for all double–deck buses to be ULEZ-compliant in central London from 2020 to 2019

Implementing clean bus corridors – tackling the worst pollution hotspots by delivering cleaner buses on the dirtiest routes

The Mayor’s Office say the rollout of an Emissions Surcharge in 2017, followed by an expanded ULEZ in 2020, would be the toughest crackdown on the most polluting vehicles by any major city around the world.

Meanwhile environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging politicians to back calls for a new UK Clean Air Act to help deal with the country’s illegal levels of air pollution.

EU air quality laws are currently being breached by the UK government but those laws may not apply or could be weakened once the UK leaves the EU.

The government’s current plans, which it was ordered to produce by the Supreme Court after losing to ClientEarth last year, do not project the UK will have legal levels of air pollution until 2025 at the earliest.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “We welcome [the Mayor’s] plans to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone and to bring it in earlier. This is vital if we are to take the dirtiest vehicles out of London.”