Sadiq Khan unveils action plan to battle London’s toxic air

05 July 2016

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today launched plans for the toughest crackdown on the most polluting vehicles by any major city around the world. A £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles and an extended Ultra-Low Emission Zone will be part of a major public consultation launched today, the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act.

With around 9,500 Londoners dying from long-term exposure to air pollution every year and latest research revealing over 443 schools in the capital are in areas exceeding safe legal pollution levels, Sadiq Khan wants to take urgent action to help end London's 'public health emergency' and clean up the capital’s filthy air.

From new charges for the oldest most polluting vehicles, to improved alerts for high-pollution episodes, the Mayor is today asking Londoners for their views on his Clean Air Action plan. The public have until Friday 29th July 2016 to feed back on the first round of the consultation, further more detailed consultation will take place later this year and 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 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. 

On the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, ‎the Mayor delivered a keynote speech at the consultation launch and visited a Great Ormond Street Hospital specialist ward caring for children with a variety of respiratory conditions which are all adversely affected by poor air quality.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:  “With nearly 10,000 people dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, cleaning up London’s toxic air is now an issue of life and death. 

“It is the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act of 1956, which was passed following the great London smogs of the 1950s.  The legislation made a huge difference to life in London and saved countless lives.  British politicians at the time did an amazing thing and responded on the scale that was required.  Today we face another pollution public health emergency in London and now it’s our turn to act for the good of Londoners and for future generations to come. 

“Just as in the 1950s, air pollution in London today is literally killing Londoners.  But unlike the smoky pollution of the past, today’s pollution is a hidden killer.  

“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.”

At Great Ormond Street Hospital the Mayor met Dr Colin Wallis, Consultant in Respiratory Paediatrics, who told him that many young patients live with respiratory conditions exacerbated by poor air quality conditions. To help address this the hospital has brought in a clean-air zone around the hospital’s vicinity encouraging staff, patients and families not to let their car engines idle, and to use low emission taxis and minicabs or walk or cycle wherever possible.

Dr Peter Steer, Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH), said:“The Mayor’s drive to clean up the capital’s air is fantastic news for our patients and staff. Children living in highly polluted areas are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood, yet improving air quality has been shown to halt and reverse this effect. When the UK’s most seriously ill children come to GOSH for our world class care, we want to ensure that they are  not exposed to high levels of harmful pollution and so we are pleased improving London’s air quality is a priority for the Mayor.”

Notes to editors

1, This is the first stage of the Mayor’s Clean Air consultation with later stages focusing on more detailed assessment around the £10 Emissions Surcharge (‘T-Charge’) and ULEZ. The next stage is due in the autumn. To view the consultation visit www.london.gov.uk/cleanair

 2, The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is an area within which all cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will need to meet exhaust emission standards (ULEZ standards) or pay a daily charge to travel of £12.50 a day for cars/vans/motorcycles and £100 for coaches/HGVs/buses. These figures were set by the previous Mayor in 2015.The ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week within the same area as the current Congestion Charging Zone (CCZ), and comes into force in 2020. The consultation today proposes bringing forward the central London ULEZ to 2019 and extending the zone to the North and South Circular in 2020.

3, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof.

Additional quotes

Faculty of Public Health

Professor John Middleton, President of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “Although we no longer have the ‘pea soupers’ that killed 12,000 people in the 1950s, 40,000 deaths each year in the UK are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution. It is also evident that it is disproportionately the poorest of our communities which are most exposed and vulnerable to air pollution.

“Everyone in public health, local authorities and across the health and social care sector needs to work together to reduce the health harms of driving. For the sake of our health now and generations to come, we need a change in culture so that walking or cycling becomes part of our daily routine, rather than spending hours sitting in cars.”

Asthma UK

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said: “We welcome the Mayor’s plans to improve air quality in London. Air pollution, in particular traffic pollution, plays a role in both triggering asthma attacks and causing asthma in both children and adults. According to the latest figures from the Health Survey for England toxic air affects nearly 600,000 people living in London with asthma, so it’s vital that action is taken to improve air quality.

“Data from Public Health England shows that high pollution levels create peaks in GP visits and emergency hospitalisations, which is why we urgently need significant investment into asthma research to find practical solutions to this invisible killer and for pollution alerts to help people manage their asthma.” 

British Lung Foundation

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s a tragedy that on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, we continue see pollution limits broken in many parts of the capital, urgent action is needed to clean up London’s air. We are pleased the Mayor has prioritised improving air quality.

“Air pollution contributes to 9,500 early deaths in London every year. It worsens existing lung conditions, increases the risk of getting lung cancer and impairs child lung development.”

London Councils

Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: “Air quality in London requires urgent attention, and so we welcome the new Mayor’s commitment to the issue and the speedy launch of this consultation.

“With over 9,000 Londoners dying prematurely each year as a result of air pollution, it’s vital that action is taken and boroughs stand ready to build on the good work they are already doing. We now look forward to working more closely with the Mayor to bring about a healthier future for London.”

New West End Company

Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive of New West End Company representing West End businesses commented: "We are impressed that the Mayor has set out his intentions to tackle air quality in our capital as one of his first priorities in office. We are fully supportive of the Mayor's consultation, and look forward to working with him and the businesses we represent to deliver a sustainable solution for improving air quality in the West End.

"Last week, along with Cross River Partnership, we launched an Air Quality Strategy to drive business-led action to reduce business emissions by 10% and business related traffic congestion by 40% before 2020. However, there is much more to be done to target dangerous pollution levels in London, and we look forward to working closely with the Mayor towards achieving this."