Nitrogen Dioxide pollution in London during EU Year of Air

MQT on 2013-01-30
Session date: 
January 30, 2013
Question By: 
Jenny Jones
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Given that London has again exceeded legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide, what further action will you take to prevent areas such as Putney High Street (which breached hourly Nitrogen Dioxide limits 2709 times in 2012) from similar exposure in 2013?


Answer for Nitrogen Dioxide pollution in London during EU Year of Air

Answer for Nitrogen Dioxide pollution in London during EU Year of Air

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, thanks, Jenny. There are a lot of things that clearly we are doing, particularly to address what is happening in Putney High Street. You will be familiar with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) Phase 3, the taxi age limits, the retrofitting that is going on for homes in London to reduce NOx, particularly in Putney High Street which you have asked me about. I want to assure you that there are very ambitious programmes to reduce the pollution in what is effectively a bit of a gully for poor air quality and by the summer of this year 85% of the buses that go through Putney High Street will meet Euro 4 standards, up from 20% at the beginning of last year. We are announcing a special sum, the Mayor's Air Quality fund, £20 million to help boroughs tackle particular problems such as those experienced by Putney High Street.

I should say that although Putney does have particularly high levels of NOx and diesel fumes, I am afraid it is not alone in London. There are other areas that suffer from poor air quality in a similar way and we are determined to bring forward further measures, I would just put the Assembly on notice, to improve air quality in London.

John Biggs (AM): More glue.

Jenny Jones (AM): That is all very good news. Can you tell me, the buses passing through Putney --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Not more glue. Stop heckling me.

Darren Johnson (Deputy Chair): Yes, be quiet, Mr Biggs.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Why can we not glue him?

Darren Johnson (Deputy Chair): Or even Mr Duvall. I was guessing that this behaviour was from John Biggs.

Jenny Jones (AM): Can I have some time back on this?

Darren Johnson (Deputy Chair): We have stopped the clock. Carry on, Jenny.

Jenny Jones (AM): Thank you. Mr Mayor, that is all very good news. Can you tell me if all the buses going through Putney will be clean buses?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I said, by the summer 85% of them will be up to Euro 4. I cannot give you any further details on that yet. It is our ambition, plainly-- I would like zero tailpipe buses as soon as possible in London. We were discussing this a great deal in Transport for London (TfL) to see what we can do. The issue, as you know, is to do with range and range confidence, but we think we can make progress. What I can tell you is that there will be a substantial improvement in the quality and the cleanness of the buses this year.

Jenny Jones (AM): Are the measures you are introducing in Putney, are they actually going to bring Putney within the EU limits? Is it going to make Putney legal?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I cannot give you that kind of detail. What I can tell you, which I have said many times before, is that London does better than many other EU cities, including Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Athens, on some of the most injurious pollutants.

Jenny Jones (AM): Not on NO2 in fact. We are the worst in Britain and Europe.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Not on NO2, bbasically because of the move to diesel. Everybody was encouraged to move to diesel. We are now looking at trying to reduce the diesel consumption of the fleet by moving to, as I say, more hybrids or indeed to try to get zero tailpipe buses altogether.

Jenny Jones (AM): Are you bringing in other emergency measures in other places, as you are in Putney?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, in the sense that the clean air fund, the Air Quality fund, is there specifically to help boroughs address some of these pollution hotspots.

Jenny Jones (AM): By when do you expect London to be within the legal limits?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We already are within the legal limits and we have done very well on PM10s and some other pollutants.

Jenny Jones (AM): This question is about nitrogen dioxide pollution, specifically.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): OK. I cannot give you a timescale now, Jenny, and I am not going to extemporise one. I will make sure we write to you with the projections.

Jenny Jones (AM): Would you consider some emergency measures - obviously they are desirable since we are facing possible fines from Europe - for example, road closures?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I said just now, we are going to be bringing forward other measures to improve air quality. When you look at the totality of what London is doing to improve air quality it is very impressive. It has certainly impressed the European Commission, and they know the seriousness of our intentions. Of course we will look at all sorts of measures to improve air quality. Closing roads I am not certain is necessary. I would much rather use our position as a regulator, which we have in TfL, to drive forward the technical improvements that will really sort this problem out.

Jenny Jones (AM): This is a problem not only about fines from Europe, it is also a public health problem, because TfL figures show that more than 4,000 Londoners die early deaths every year because of pollution and a lot of that is attributed to diesel fumes and exhausts. It is quite important to bring London within legal limits, is it not?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You have to be clear, the PM10s are the really noxious things and the NOx does not in fact have the effect that you are describing. The PM10s are the most pernicious element and on those we have had considerable success in reductions.

Jenny Jones (AM): I am talking about nitrogen dioxide.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): NOx is not associated with the fatalities that you describe.

Jenny Jones (AM): It is important to bring London within legal limits and at the moment you cannot tell me when that will be. You cannot give me a year.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I can tell you that we are already compliant on PM10s and that, as far as NOx goes, 22 out of 27 EU countries are currently facing the same problems and --

Jenny Jones (AM): We are the worst in Europe on nitrogen dioxide pollution. We are the worst. Admit it. Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We are very far from alone. We have 22 out of 27 --

Jenny Jones (AM): Admit it? We are the worst in Europe.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will certainly concede that we are better than many other European cities including Rome, Barcelona and Paris. Go and get a lungful of Paris. Go and stand behind a bus in Paris, Jenny, and inhale the rich vapours that they allow to emanate from their public transport and you will pray you were back in London. We are doing better on the PM10s, the PM2.5s, which are the things that really cause the illnesses that you rightly draw attention to. I want people to know I do not minimise this problem. We are very ambitious --

Jenny Jones (AM): You have got to stop pandering --

Darren Johnson (Deputy Chair): I think we will conclude it there. Assembly Member Tracey.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- to improve air quality in London.

Jenny Jones (AM): I want some time back on his wasting my time.