2020 and Nitrogen Dioxide legal limits

MQT on 2013-09-11
Session date: 
September 11, 2013
Question By: 
Jenny Jones
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How much of the main road network in London will still exceed Nitrogen Dioxide legal limits in 2020?


Answer for 2020 and Nitrogen Dioxide legal limits

Answer for 2020 and Nitrogen Dioxide legal limits

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Jenny, thank you for this and I have seen your work that you have done on this. Obviously it is still difficult to get London as clean as we would like, but clearly we are making progress. If you look at the numbers, nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, which are the particularly nasty stuff, have come down by 20% in London I believe since I have been Mayor. That is a considerable reduction. Yes, since I was elected, NOx emissions are down by 20% and particulate matter concentrations less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10s) are down by 15%.

That is progress but we need to go further and you will be familiar with many of the improvements we are trying to make, with the age limits for taxis, with the low-emission buses, with walking and cycling programmes. Of course, particularly important for dealing with NOx, you have to retrofit buildings because actually the funny thing is it is not so much the vehicular traffic that is responsible for NOx. It is the boilers of London and we have a huge programme, as you know, to do that.

Jenny Jones (AM): You have not actually answered the question, which is

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That was a pretty bloody long answer.

Jenny Jones (AM): how much of the main road network in London will still exceed nitrogen dioxide levels in 2020? I can tell you the answer from your own statistics. It is 45%. So, with all these wonderful measures - actually not so wonderful, some of them - with all these measures you are putting in, nearly half of London's main roads will still be polluted

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, they will be. You are right.

Jenny Jones (AM): so you are not solving the problem, are you?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Patently, we are. It depends what you mean by 'solving'. We are greatly reducing the problem and I wish we could go further and faster. We are bringing in the ultra-low emission zone and

Jenny Jones (AM): That is in 2020, so it will not have an impact until 2021, will it? That is actually irrelevant.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You have to be reasonable to people who are buying and driving cars now because, in the end, they do not have cheap access to zero tailpipe emission vehicles. Stephen [Knight, AM] and I had a long conversation about this in the last Mayor's Question Time (MQT) and

Jenny Jones (AM): Please do not repeat it.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): that is why we are saying to people, '2020 is the deadline for the new technology but we cannot expect you to anticipate what the technology is going to provide'. I know this will be no consolation to people in this city who suffer from poor air quality and I share your zeal on this.

Jenny Jones (AM): I am glad you are sorry and that you recognise it is no consolation to people. Do you know that by 2020, 403 bus stops in Barnet will still be on roads that exceed nitrogen dioxide legal limits?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do know that because I saw your press release.

Jenny Jones (AM): Fifty five schools in Wandsworth will still be within 150 metres of a main road that exceeds the nitrogen dioxide levels and 42 kilometres of main road in Redbridge will still exceed it. You are not fixing the problem. You have the power, you can do it and you are putting it off for subsequent mayors.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is completely untrue. If you mean by 'you have the power' I could ban all traffic in London and I could close down every central heating system in our city, then I think you exaggerate my powers. I might be able to ban all traffic but I certainly could not ask the people of London to stop using central heating this winter. That would be wrong.

What I can do, as we are doing, is continue to retrofit huge numbers of homes. We have already done 96,000. We have identified a further 62,000 homes across London where we are going to improve the

Jenny Jones (AM): With all of this, in seven years' time, 45% or nearly half of London's roads will still be illegal by your standards. That means every Londoner is breathing in dirty air. It is bad for asthma. It is bad for people with heart conditions. It is really bad for children whose lungs do not develop properly here in London because of the dirty air. It is bad for Londoners. You have to do your bit. You have to speed up what you are doing.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Jenny, I accept that. I would just point out that there are many cities around the world which have a worse state than ours, Milan, Bucharest, Rome, Munich, Paris, Stuttgart

Jenny Jones (AM): I am sure the mayors of those cities feel bad about it, but London

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Prague, Berlin

Jenny Jones (AM): London. We cannot do anything about Amsterdam but you can do something about London.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I accept that, but I am trying to give you some context.

Jenny Jones (AM): No, Mr Mayor, I have asked you a question about why you will not move faster.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Sorry. I really think, if you look at what we have done and the aggression of the timetable we have set, it is unlike anything City Hall has done before. Actually, this was the only administration to introduce an age limit for taxis, which was not remotely popular with taxi drivers

Jenny Jones (AM): It is a stupid measure because you should be measuring the tailpipe emissions and not just judging on age.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We do that as well.

Jenny Jones (AM): Some people at the age of 63 are still in quite good shape.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): For heaven's sake.

Jenny Jones (AM): Others at 63 are in very bad shape, so I am suggesting that

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): So you want us to get rid of the age limits for taxis?

Jenny Jones (AM): age is not a delimiter of anything, so you should have looked at tailpipe emissions. I have finished my questions.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We have greatly reduced emissions from taxis. If you are now saying that it is Green Party policy to get rid of age limits for taxis, then that is news to me

Jenny Jones (AM): I am saying we should measure how dirty they are before we ban them.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): and it shows unbelievable cynicism and opportunism of the Green Party, but perhaps I should not be surprised. We have introduced the cleanest, greenest new bus in the world. We have done more for cycling.

Jenny Jones (AM): The hottest bus in London. Mr Mayor, you are getting off the point.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think most impartial observers would say that we have done more for cycling than any previous Mayoralty. We have invested huge sums and we are putting a further £1 billion into improving cycling in London. We are going through a massive exercise of trying to retrofit Londoners' homes, but I have to deal with the city as it is and not some crazy green nirvana in which we all sit around eating alfalfa and nobody drives a car.

Jenny Jones (AM): Can I point out he is off the point?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is not going to happen, Jenny, nor would it be

Jenny Jones (AM): Yes, you are off the point, as usual, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not. I am on the point.