Mayor announces new improvements to air quality alerts

30 January 2018

• Sadiq joins forces with King’s College London

• London’s air quality on verge of breaching legal limits following cleanest January in 18 years

• Mayor to make it easier for all Londoners to take more active role in fighting air pollution

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced that he is teaming up with King’s College London to improve the way he informs the public, particularly those who are most vulnerable, about incidents of poor air quality in the capital.

Sadiq is also today making it easier for all Londoners, including schools and community groups to take advantage of air quality monitoring sensors that can be purchased so they can know more about the pollution in their local area.

London has enjoyed the first January for 18 years so far without breaching legal hourly limits for toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution. However, the city is now on the verge of breaking this legal limit. To coincide with this, the Mayor is now warning Londoners that we will soon be entering the Spring air pollution season, where we would typically expect to see an increase in the number of moderate and high pollution days.

Much of the reason why London has gone so long this year without breaching the legal limit is due to the hard-hitting measures Sadiq has introduced to improve the capital’s dirty air.

Responding to Londoners’ requests to receive information when air quality is high or very high, Sadiq last year implemented a new programme of air quality advice and alerts for the public.

When high and very high air pollution is forecast, air quality alerts are displayed at many public locations across London including 2,500 bus stop countdown signs and all Tube stations. Alerts and guidance are also available via social media, an app and a text alert service providing information and guidance on the alert level.

To improve this system Sadiq has now appointed King’s College London as duty forecaster. From next week they will continuously monitor air pollution in London using the existing air quality monitoring network and cutting-edge modelling tools, delivering alerts as required. They will also directly notify a wider group of stakeholders so that the alerts are disseminated more widely and targeted at Londoners who are most vulnerable to the impacts of poor air, including those at schools, and potentially care homes, and GPs surgeries in the near future.

The new King’s duty forecaster will consider forecasts from airTEXT and other forecasters to ensure greater coordination and consistency in alerts messaging. airTEXT provide text and other alerts to around 16,000 Londoners, including those with health conditions which polluted air can exacerbate. The model-based forecast that airTEXT uses will be improved to incorporate real-time monitoring data so that in-day updates can be issued.

Sadiq is also publishing guidance today on how air quality is monitored in London, how Londoners can get involved and how they can understand what type of equipment is available for them to use.

As well as wanting more information, many Londoners, schools and community organisations want to take a more active role in fighting pollution. It is getting easier for people and groups to buy personal and relatively low-cost monitoring systems. These can be valuable tools, but knowing how best to use the systems is vital if the results are to provide meaningful information.

The guide gives an overview of current monitoring in London and highlights resources to help Londoners design their own studies, information on types of monitors and how to interpret results.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I introduced air quality alerts within months of becoming Mayor because Londoners have a right to know about the quality of the air that they breathe.

“The system has proved to be very successful but I am delighted to bring the expertise of King’s College London onboard so that we can improve it and reach more Londoners, particularly the most vulnerable, with the very latest information.

“At long last we are seeing some improvements in our toxic air, but there is a long way to go before we can breathe easy. I want more Londoners to engage with air quality issues so I am sure the new guidance that I have published today will encourage people to learn more about the air they breathe and what they can do to improve it.

“But I can’t tackle London’s killer air on my own – and it is vital that the Government steps up to the plate and matches my ambition. As an urgent first step they must stop blocking London from accessing the new National Clean Air Fund, which Londoners contribute to through their taxes and could help deliver vital support for them like a vehicle scrappage scheme.”

The improvement in London's filthy air quality can be partly attributed to the hard-hitting measures Sadiq has introduced since he was elected, including the Toxicity Charge (T-Charge) for older, dirtier cars in central London and targeting the most polluted bus routes by delivering the first two in a series of Low Emission Bus Zones.

The Mayor is doing everything in his power to tackle London’s harmful air quality and has confirmed that even stronger vehicle emission standards will apply when the central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone is launched in April 2019, 17 months earlier than planned. The Mayor is currently consulting on reducing toxic emissions by expanding the ULEZ up to the North/South circular roads from 2021, and introducing the ULEZ standards for heavy vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries London-wide from 2020.

The Mayor now needs the Government to match his ambition and deliver a much-needed national diesel scrappage scheme as well as the resources and legislation London needs to get the most polluting vehicles off our roads and clean up our toxic air once and for all. He also wants the Government to allow Londoners to access the national Clean Air Fund which they contribute to, to help them switch to cleaner vehicles.

Timothy Baker, Principal Air Quality Analyst at King’s College London, said: “This new role for King's College London recognises that our twenty five year history of monitoring across London, in partnership with London's boroughs, has given us an unrivalled understanding of air pollution in the Capital. Providing accurate, up-to-date information to the public is a central component of King's civic duty, and this exciting new partnership with Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, will enable that message to be delivered directly to those most affected by air pollution."

Amy Stidworthy of CERC, who issue the airTEXT forecasts, said: "We are delighted to work with the Mayor and King's College London to ensure that Londoners receive the best possible warning of air pollution episodes. As part of our continual improvement of airTEXT we will be linking our modelling more closely with real time measurements of air quality across London to provide the very latest information."

Notes to editors

The Mayor’s guidance on how air quality is monitored in London, how Londoners can get involved can be accessed at: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quali...

For further details on airTEXT visit www.airtext.info