Air pollution fines (2)

MQT on 2011-03-23
Session date: 
March 23, 2011
Question By: 
Darren Johnson
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will you revise London's air quality plan "by 11 June 2011 to include short-term measures" as required by the European Commissions letter of 11th March 2011?


Answer for Air pollution fines (2)

Answer for Air pollution fines (2)

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thank you very much, Darren. On air pollution and the steps that we're taking, we don't see any need to revise the Air Quality Strategy now because we believe that the measures that we are taking for local hotspots have been included since the publication of the first draft of this strategy in October 2009. I think that when you look at the very wise decision of the Commission not to go ahead with the £300 million fine on us, I think they too have seen the steps that we are taking; they are looking at the measures that London is introducing to improve air quality and I think they have been impressed by the force of what we are doing.

Darren Johnson (AM): Although the Commission's letter does say very clearly London's Air Quality plan will need to be revised by 11 June 2011 to include the short term measures and be submitted to the Commission.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, as I say, the local measures have been included since the publication of the draft in 2009, so we are confident that the dust suppressant strategy is an encouragement to walking and cycling, the zero carbon strategy, the low carbon bus, the strategies on taxi emissions, all those things we think have been impressive for the Commission and we do not think it will be necessary to revise the strategy.

Darren Johnson (AM): OK, well let us just recap where we are because we are three months into the year. Marylebone Road has already had 19 bad air days. Under the legislation only 35 are allowed and just three months into the year we have had 19 bad air days already; a quarter of the way through the year. Your own figures, your own research shows that we have thousands of premature deaths each year in London because of the poor levels of air quality, we are at serious, serious risk of facing a £300 million fine for breaches. Do you understand the seriousness of this problem?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes of course I do, of course I do, Darren, and I want to thank you again for all the interest that you show in this and the way that you keep pursuing this. I mean I think it is right. London's air quality obviously has improved over the last few decades. It is far better now than it was say in the 1950s or even when you and I were growing up Darren, the air quality has been improving, but there is a long way to go. There are particular problems, as we all know, around these exceedance areas. You mention the Marylebone Road, that is certainly one of them. I have to say that in the last few months or indeed in the last few weeks, there have been particular concerns and air quality problems caused we think not just by London-generated emissions, but I am afraid to say, according to the Defra report to the Commission, 75% of the PM10 exceedances in these hotspots occurred during big European pollution episodes. What I mean by that is that when the wind is coming, when you have as it were a westerly wind blowing in from the

Jenny Jones (AM): Atlantic?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Do I mean easterly or westerly?

Jenny Jones (AM): Atlantic?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No I mean a westerly wind. I do mean a westerly wind. Do I mean an easterly wind? I mean wind that is coming from the

Darren Johnson (AM): Yes, let us get to the detail, that's fine.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It says in my brief it is a westerly wind.

Darren Johnson (AM): Yes, let us not worry about the wind.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, we have to worry about the wind. Much as I would like not to worry about the wind, Darren, there are, I'm afraid, 75% of the PMT exceedances are carried on whether you define the wind as moving easterly or westerly, it depends on your point of view but it is moving from east to west

Darren Johnson (AM): Yes, well let's

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): over the European land mass and it is carrying

Darren Johnson (AM): Let us talk about the PM10s under your control.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): and it is carrying emissions, PM10 pollutants, from power generation, from large combustion sources and from agriculture, and that is accounting for particular

Darren Johnson (AM): Well let us talk about those PM10s which you can control.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, OK.

Darren Johnson (AM): You have mentioned some of the measures but electric vehicles, you have downgraded that 25,000 charging points target; you have dropped that. The age limit on taxis, reducing them to ten years, that is one of the measures that has been dropped in your final strategy.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No it hasn't.

Darren Johnson (AM): The 2012 target for hybrid buses is no longer a solid commitment. We are constantly seeing backtracking on this rather than solid steps forward.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, and I think the decision of the Commission to lift the threat of the fine, to lift the imposition of the fine, shows the progress that we are making. What absolute nonsense. You sat here, if I may say so, in this place and I do not wish in any way to be personal about this or with any Member here but frankly this is the first administration to bring in any kind of age limit for taxis at all. Is it not?

We are bringing in an age limit for London taxis and a difficult thing to do, because these are a major investment for entrepreneurs, people who run their own businesses, we brought in an age limit for taxis for the first time never happened when you were here and I take it from what you say about buses that you therefore support what we are doing with the new bus for London. I look forward to your support on that because it will be 15% less fuel emitting, less CO2 emitting, less pollution emitting than a current hybrid bus and 40% less than a current diesel bus, and that is an important new technological development. We are using technology and we are not backing off from it, we are using technology to tackle emissions. We are also of course using the short term measures that I think the Commissions understand and approve of.

Darren Johnson (AM): Well I constantly battled with the previous Mayor as well on this and I thought

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well you have got a result.

Darren Johnson (AM): that progress under the previous administration was far, far too slow, we constantly battled away on this, but we have seen numerous backward steps from your Mayoralty which are actually making the targets more difficult to achieve rather than easier. I just do not think you have

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Darren that is complete nonsense.

Darren Johnson (AM): understood the seriousness of this problem and I do think we are looking at a £300 million fine because of your failure to act decisively on this issue.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well I think, can I just say

Jenny Jones (AM): Hear, hear.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well can I just say I think that you are facing the reality of seeing what and I am not going to accuse you of wanting the £300 million to be imposed

Darren Johnson (AM): No I want the problem to be solved so we do not have to pay it.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): because I do not believe you would be so perverse and I do not believe you would want to see London taxpayers obliged to pay £300 million pounds

Darren Johnson (AM): I want the problem to be solved.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think you ought perhaps to pay tribute to Isabel Dedring [Mayoral Advisor, Environment] and everybody in the Environment Team at the GLA who has worked very hard to produce a very credible and groundbreaking strategy for reducing emissions, PM10s and other pollutants, of a kind that never took place under the previous administration. Quite frankly, we have had to deal in London with the consequences of inertia under the Labour Government and inertia under the previous Mayor. We are now actually cleaning up the air in a way that never took place before.