Mayor welcomes ruling that Government has broken law on air quality

02 November 2016

Ruling must be a 'wake-up-call' for Government to take immediate action 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today welcomed a High Court ruling that the Government has broken the law by failing to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution as quickly as possible‎.

Sadiq Khan declared that the case, brought by environmental legal group ClientEarth, must be a 'wake-up call' to Government to finally take effective action to improve air quality in London and around the country.

It is estimated that 9,400 deaths occur each year in London due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution, while 448 schools in London are in areas exceeding legal air quality levels.

Today’s ruling on ClientEarth’s challenge, in which the Mayor appeared as an interested party, means that the Government's existing plan for improving air quality will be quashed.

Instead, ministers will have to put in place, as quickly as possible, new measures to remove illegal levels of NO2 air pollution.

Since becoming Mayor in May, Sadiq Khan has begun consulting a bold and wide-ranging package of measures to tackle London’s killer air. This includes a new T-charge (Emissions Surcharge) in the Congestion Charging Zone in 2017 and potentially introducing the Ultra Low Emission Zone a year earlier in 2019 as well as expanding it up to the North/South circular. This is the toughest crackdown on the most polluting vehicles by any major city around the world.

Sadiq now believes the Government must treat air quality with the same importance as he does and bring forward comprehensive plans to clean-up the country’s poor air.

Sadiq Khan said: “Today’s High Court ruling brings sharply into focus the scale of the country’s air pollution crisis and lays the blame at the door of the Government for its complacency in failing to tackle the problem quickly and credibly. In so doing they have let down millions of people the length and breadth of the country.

“This must now act as a real wake-up call to Government to finally get to grips with this national health emergency that is causing 9,400 deaths every year just in London alone. Serious action by the Government is long overdue and if we had been given the tools to tackle this head-on in the first place we would have been on the road to compliance much sooner. We need bold measures, fit for the 21st century, such as those I have proposed, so people no longer have to fear the air they breathe.

“I am calling for the Government’s revised package of measures to include funding a national diesel scrappage scheme to take the most polluting vehicles off our roads and an overhaul of vehicle excise duty to incentivise the buying of the cleanest vehicles, as well as powers to tackle non-road sources of NO2, including from construction. The Government needs to take urgent action to achieve legal air quality limits, reduce harmful emissions and protect public health.

“The European Union currently provides the legal framework which protects Londoners' right to clean air and the Government must also make sure Brexit isn't used as an excuse to weaken existing standards and delay taking the bold action needed.”

Just one week after the decision to expand Heathrow, the Mayor also believes that the Government must use this opportunity to set out clearly how it is possible for Londoners not to suffer from the additional air and noise pollution that will be created by an additional runway. This ruling also raises serious questions about whether such a runway can ever be legally delivered.

Notes to editors

The Mayor launched his plan to clean up London’s filthy air in July and the initial consultation attracted a record 15,000 responses. This package of measures is now out for consultation again. Proposals include:

  • Introducing the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2019, a year ahead of schedule and extending it up to the North and South Circular in 2019 or later.
  • Introducing an Emissions Surcharge (“T-charge”) for older polluting vehicles entering the Congestion Charge zone in October 2017. This charge would be in addition to the Congestion Charge and would apply to vehicles that do not meet the Euro 4/IV emissions standard for NOx and PM emissions. Pre-Euro 4 vehicles are generally those registered up to and including 2005. The charge, costing £10 per day for non-compliant vehicles, would operate at the same times as the Congestion Charge (Monday to Friday, 07:00 – 18:00).
  • The Mayor has also called on Government to put in place a national diesel scrappage scheme to help people replace vehicles affected by the proposals. There was overwhelming support for this in the first round of his consultation. He also wants fiscal incentives, like vehicle excise duty, to be reformed so they support the Mayor’s proposals and encourage people to own and use the cleanest vehicles. The Mayor has also requested additional powers so he can tackle non road sources of pollution including from construction and the river.

To further support the ULEZ, Transport for London is leading by example and will ensure all double decker buses operating in the ULEZ will be hybrid and all single decker buses will be fully electric or hydrogen.

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