Skip to main content

Joint effort needed to improve London’s air quality

  • By Rosemary.Davenp...

London MPs and air quality experts will gather this afternoon (Tuesday 28 June) to discuss improving air quality in the capital.

In response to research published by Kings College London, which showed that air pollution in the London contributes to 9,500 premature deaths a year, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for London is urgently considering what all levels of government can do to address this issue.

Speaking before the meeting, Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: “Air pollution is a silent killer in the capital and should not be underestimated. Whilst we are encouraged that the issue is rising up the national agenda, it is vital that more is done.

“London boroughs take their responsibilities for managing and improving air quality very seriously and are doing their level best to tackle the issue – from installing electric vehicle charging points to setting up large-scale schemes to group council deliveries into fewer vehicles.

“But it is clear that pollution does not respect borough boundaries, and councils cannot do this alone: it is a capital-wide problem that requires capital-wide solutions. The boroughs have welcomed the Ultra Low Emission Zone and its possible extension and will work with the Mayor to come up with a suitable boundary. But government also needs to play its part.

“This is why we are calling on government to make firm commitments to meet air quality targets, enforce standards for diesel vehicles, and introduce financial incentives, such as a diesel scrappage scheme to encourage use of low emission vehicles.”

The APPG for London, which meets at 2pm this afternoon, is asking government to consider measures including:

  • Commiting to meet EU limits for nitrogen dioxide by 2020, despite the vote to leave the EU last week. Abandoning these targets now would mean more decades of poor air quality.
  • Ensuring new diesel vehicles coming onto the market meet EU Euro 6 standards in real driving conditions, not just those experienced under laboratory conditions.
  • Fiscal incentives and penalties to encourage low emission vehicles that address both the carbon dioxide as well as the particulate matter and nitrogen oxides emissions.
  • Introducing a national scrappage scheme for the most polluting vehicles on our roads.

Professor Gary Fuller, Senior lecturer in air quality measurement, King's College London, will also speak at the meeting this afternoon. He said: “Over 9,000 Londoners are estimated to die each year from the pollution in the air that we breathe. Our air pollution limits were set in the late 1990s to be met by 2010 but on current plans we won’t meet them to 2025 or beyond. One clear lesson is the need for regular assessments to ensure that our new plans remain on target.”

ENDS

Case studies

Camden, Enfield and Islington

These boroughs have worked together with the private sector to create a Freight Consolidation Service in Edmonton. Council suppliers deliver their goods to the Consolidation Centre, where they are grouped into fewer onward deliveries. This scheme helps reduce pollution, congestion and costs to the suppliers. 212 suppliers have participated so far, serving 314 separate addresses. The Consolidation Centre has achieved a 51% reduction in associated nitrogen dioxide and 69% reduction in associated particulate matter.

Haringey

Haringey has installed ‘green screens’ at schools adjacent to main roads to reduce the exposure of young children to poor air quality. They use vegetation that can absorb pollutants and the screens have wider benefits including making playgrounds more attractive places to play and reducing noise from adjacent roads. 

City of London

The City of London has been tackling engine idling by training volunteers to speak to drivers. Businesses were asked to sign up to switch off their engines during Cleaner Air Action Days.

Hackney

London’s first rapid on-street electric vehicle charging points, which can fully charge a vehicle in less than 30 minutes, were launched in July 2015 by Hackney Council. The three publicly-available 50kw devices are located in Hackney’s main town centres: Bentley Road in Dalston; Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch; and Reading Lane in Hackney Central. Vehicles will fully charge within half-an-hour compared to between three and four hours when standard units are used.

Notes to editors

  1. The APPG for London aims to promote London in the interests of all its people, places and businesses as a global city and powerhouse of the economy. The cross-party group was formally set up at the end of May 2015 and currently has 61 members: 44 MPs and 17 Peers. The APPG members come together to help provide a voice for London and to promote the capital in the interests of all Londoners.
  2. London Councils provides the secretariat to the APPG on behalf of London Government including the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
  3. The Euro 6 standard imposes a reduction in exhaust emissions from car diesel engines to improve air quality and health. NOx emissions have been shown to be higher in real world conditions and on test tracks than they are in laboratory conditions, which are widely used to test vehicle pollution levels.