Mayor calls on EU and Government to do more to improve air quality

29 July 2014

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will today call on the Government and European Commission to match London’s ambitious plans to tackle air quality and do their bit to help London meet EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions by 2020, rather than 2030.


Launching his new air quality manifesto in a key-note speech at Mansion House this evening, the Mayor will set out how City Hall’s actions alone, including the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone, will take London two thirds of the way to compliance with EU NO2 limits by 2020.


Already vast improvements have been made. The oldest and most polluting vehicles have been taken off the streets, standards for engines and buildings have been tightened and the world’s largest bus retrofit programme has created the cleanest fleet in the world. Since the Mayor was elected, half as many Londoners live in areas exceeding legal limits, emissions of harmful particulates are down by 15 per cent, and nitrogen oxide emissions are down by 20 per cent.


Yet over recent years the Euro diesel engine standards have not delivered the emission savings expected, while governments have been incentivising motorists to buy diesel cars. This has created a generation of 'dirty diesels' which must now be addressed.


The Mayor's plan for the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), encouraging all vehicles in central London to be ultra low or zero emission from 2020, will help address the 'dirty diesel' problem in a reasonable way, giving motorists time to meet the new standards.


Today, the Mayor will ask the Government to step up to the plate by putting air quality at the heart of health, energy and climate change policies, with incentives to promote cleaner vehicles, and cash to tackle hotspots and purchase more cleaner vehicles. In addition the Mayor will call on the European Commission to improve the testing of new engine emission standards, and create a new fund to help European cities tackle pollution.


The Mayor’s route-map to compliance by 2020 challenges recent Government assumptions that compliance is not possible until 2030, and sets out how this can be achieved ten years sooner with a determined approach from local, regional, central and European government.


The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Improving London’s air quality is an urgent challenge, it affects the health and well-being of all Londoners, and it simply cannot be put on hold. Here at City Hall we are doing everything in our power to address it. At the heart of this are my plans for the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020. This will be a game changer, but with just a little more energy, ambition and action from Westminster and from Brussels, London can meet the EU limits for NO2 by 2020. It is possible, and together we can make it happen.”


Working with the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles, the Mayor wants to transform London’s vehicle fleets, delivering 200,000 ultra-low emission cars, 7,000 zero emission capable taxis, 11,500 ultra-low emission private hire vehicles, an additional 1,600 zero emission capable buses, and up to 350 electric vehicles in other public fleets.


By 2020 London will have 35 rapid charging hubs with 350 rapid charge points and an inductive charging network. Supporting the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be a new programme to tackle air pollution at schools and an ambitious public awareness campaign to be launched in September.


As an immediate measure, the Mayor will today announce the retrofit of a further 400 of TfL’s older buses as well as plans to expand the electric bus fleet by a minimum of 300 by 2020.


The Mansion House event, hosted by the Mayor, the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, and London Councils, will commemorate 60 years of innovation since the first London-specific Clean Air Act was passed in 1954 and helped put an end to London’s infamous ‘pea-soupers’.


Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, said: “We are a world away from the thick and filthy fogs of Victorian London – and even from the post war peasoupers, which in December 1952 alone caused the deaths of thousands of Londoners and directly affected the health of 100,000 more. But we have a long way to go before London’s air quality is at the levels we want to see. "Our capital is home to a unique concentration of expertise and initiative, and this is a London wide challenge - but it is also global challenge. Our goals will be achieved through cooperation between the London boroughs, London Councils, the Government and the GLA – who I congratulate on showing such excellent leadership."


London’s boroughs have a crucial role to play in tackling air pollution, particularly at pollution hotspots.


Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of the London Borough of Ealing and Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee (TEC), said: “Boroughs are taking significant steps to improve the quality of London’s air, but this is a pan-London problem. Our message is clear: boroughs need the money and the power to make changes without their efforts being undermined by government or the looming threat of multimillion-pound fines.”


Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, says: “Smog and air pollution should not be underestimated. We know from previous research that two thirds of people with asthma find air pollution makes their asthma worse, putting them at an increased risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack; that could mean as many as three quarters of a million Londoners could be at increased risk. Asthma can be very serious, it takes the lives of 3 people every day so it’s encouraging to see action being taken to tackle air quality in London.”


In his speech the Mayor will address recent inaccurate and misleading reporting of claims that Oxford Street is the worst polluted place on the planet. Pollution levels in London are lower than for many other world cities. For example: average levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from monitoring sites near busy roads in Stuttgart, Paris, Munich, Rome and Milan are all higher than those recorded for London, whilst Mexico City records levels of NO2 nearly double that of London. 

Notes to editors


• The Mayor's plans for the Ultra Low Emission Zone are still subject to full consultation, but it is expected that it will require diesel cars to be Euro 6 standard (i.e. no more than 5 years old) or at least Euro 4 petrol (i.e. no more than 14 years old) or they will be subject to an additional 'ULEZ' charge, likely to be a similar amount to the Congestion Charge.

• Euro VI/6 standard vehicles have been introduced from 2014 starting with heavy vehicles and deliver significant improvement for NOx emissions. For example, Euro 6 reduced NOx emissions by 70% compared to the current fleet average for diesel cars and vans. Euro 6 cars will be available from 2015.

• In February 2014 the European Commission launched formal legal proceedings against the UK Government for not meeting pollution limits by 2010. According to the latest Government estimates London will not be compliant until after 2030.

• The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) estimate that a reduction in road transport emissions of around 70% is needed for central London to meet EU legal limits for NO2 in 2020, with the ULEZ delivering around two-thirds of this. In addition to road transport, buildings and construction activity contribute significantly to London’s air pollution problem. Further reductions from these sources would also help bring compliance forward.

• Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gas, which at high enough concentrations can cause inflammation of the airways and long-term exposure can affect lung function and respiratory systems. It can also increase asthma symptoms. Recent research suggests that children are most adversely affected, with high NO2 concentrations restricting lung growth.

• In recognition of the scale of the UK’s air quality challenge, the Mayor is calling on the Government to:

o Encourage and promote the cleanest vehicles through fiscal incentives that incorporate both carbon and air pollutant emission standards o Update the Clean Air Act to give councils the right powers to deal with pollution and address emissions from construction

o Support a local approach to air quality in London with extra cash for pollution hotspots

o Help London’s public transport go ultra-low emission by 2020 with funds for hybrid/electric buses and zero emission capable taxis where air quality is worst

o Tackle building emissions by considering air quality alongside CO2 in the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s priorities

o Put air quality at the heart of health by using Public Health England to tackle exposure to air pollution

• The Mayor is asking the European Commission to:

o Improve testing of the new Euro 6 engine emission standard and use it to address vehicle emissions

o Make it easier to get EU funding to tackle pollution and create an Urban Clean Air Fund for European cities

• The Mansion house event is being part funded by European Regional Development Funding via INTRREG IVb through the Joint Air Quality Initiative of the Regions project (JOAQUIN). The aim of the JOAQUIN project is to support health-oriented air quality policies in Europe and is a partnership between 16 organisations from Belgium, The Netherlands, France and the UK. More information can be found here: The Mayor’s programme of measures:

o The Mayor has reduced the number of buses along Oxford Street by 20%

o The Mayor has tightened the Low Emission Zone standards for HGVs, buses and coaches and introducing new standards for large vans and minibuses. Around 150,000 vehicles needed to take action to meet these standards when they came into effect in January 2012

o He has created Europe’s largest fleet of hybrid buses, with 800 already on the road

o He has reduced emissions by retrofitting more than 1000 of the oldest buses with special equipment to reduce their NOx emissions by up to 88 per cent o He is retiring the remaining 900 oldest Euro III buses in TfL’s fleet and replacing them with super-clean Euro VI buses at a cost of £18m

o He is accelerating the roll out of hybrid buses, with 1,700 to be on the road by 2016, including 600 of the iconic New Buses for London which are the cleanest and greenest bus of their type. This will be equivalent to around 20% of TfL’s bus fleet

o He has retired over 3,000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis, by introducing London’s first taxi age limits;

o All new taxis will have to be zero emission capable from 2018. Oxford Street is the kind of location where we would expect them to use this functionality. We’re exploring using the same technology (already installed on New Routemasters) to do the same for buses

o The Mayor’s £20m Mayor’s Air Quality Fund to support the boroughs in tackling local air quality hotspots is providing £330,000 to the Cross River Partnership and £100,000 to Westminster City Council in improve air quality along Oxford Street

o Reducing freight and servicing activities – FREVUE is an EU-funded, Mayor-supported electric freight consolidation project on Regents Street utilising electric lorries

o New measures to reduce emissions and clean up construction sites, including plans for tough new emission standards for construction equipment in 2015 and 2020

o A new Ultra Low Emission Zone for central London to come into effect by 2020 which will include Oxford Street and the surrounding roads

o He is investing almost £1 billion to improve cycling infrastructure and encourage less polluting forms of transport. Research by the Medical Research Council, published in the British Medical Journal in February, suggested that the health benefits gained from using the city’s Cycle Hire scheme outweigh the potential negative impacts from injuries and exposure to air pollution (

o He is using the planning system to require all new development to be “air quality neutral”

o He is retrofitting hundreds of thousands of homes and public buildings with energy efficiency measures which reduce their emissions, with 400,000 already complete