This post is by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan.
At Great Ormond Street Hospital this morning I launched the first in a number of consultations on how I intend to clean up London’s air and play my part in protecting the health and well-being of London’s children.
Air pollution is a burden on the NHS and worsens inequality
London’s dangerous and polluted air will increasingly become a burden on our hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, until we choose to tackle it head on. Currently it worsens inequality in the city by affecting the most disadvantaged, poor and vulnerable communities.
Our latest analysis shows that despite a range of national air pollution targets intended to cut air pollution by 2025, we will still face a significant pollution challenge in 2030 unless further urgent action is taken. Poor air quality is not just some abstract environmental debate, it is a major public health issue and one of the biggest challenges London faces as a city.
Two pollutants in particular are at dangerously high levels. Nitrogen Dioxide – a toxic gas which inflames the lungs, stunting their growth and exacerbating diseases such as asthma – is three times higher than the safe legal limit in many parts of London. Carcinogenic particles, which also cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases – known as PM10 or PM2.5 – are breaching safe concentrations in some parts of London multiple times a year.
To tackle this emergency I am proposing a number of potential measures, including making the Ultra Low Emission Zone larger and introducing an Emissions Surcharge (dubbed the T-charge) on the most polluting vehicles using the Congestion Charging zone from 2017. Transport for London will be expected to lead by example by accelerating improvements to the bus fleet, including through an expanded retrofit programme to benefit outer London.
Pollution clearly doesn’t respect borders and, ultimately, this is a problem we can only solve with co-ordinated action across cities and between countries. The UK leaving the EU will pose a significant challenge to this but I will do all I can to make sure London’s voice is heard loud and clear.
I want to hear what Londoners think about the problem of air quality and our plans to fix it. We will only succeed if we tap into Londoners’ ideas and innovation, so please visit www.london.gov.uk/cleanair and contribute your ideas.
Today is the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, which came into being following the Great London Smogs of the 1950s. This is a timely reminder that it is possible to tackle air pollution if we are willing to be bold enough and brave enough.
I believe that, with the new plans I have announced today and co-ordinated action by the government and car manufacturers, we can make a real difference for all Londoners.