Toxic London

MQT on 2015-03-25
Session date: 
March 25, 2015
Question By: 
Murad Qureshi
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


It is my view that, after seven years of inaction, you will leave a toxic environmental legacy – not least in terms of the capital’s appalling air quality – both for Londoners and the capital’s next Mayor. Why has the environment been such a low priority during your Mayoralty?


Answer for Toxic London

Answer for Toxic London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I have been looking forward to this one. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  Have you?  So have I.  Keep it brief.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I just want to give you some of the ways in which we have tackled it.  Just shush.  You have asked a totally ludicrous question.  I am going to give you the answer, OK?


London now meets the legal limits for eight out of nine European Union (EU) pollutants.  We have halved the number of Londoners living in areas above nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits since 2008.  Halved it.  Nitrogen oxide (NOx) has been cut by 20%.  Particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10s) and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5s) are down by 15%.  We have put a record number of hybrid buses on the streets of London, including the cleanest and greenest of their type.  We have taken 6,000 of the oldest and dirtiest taxis off the road.  We have seen massive investment.  We have seen a 14% reduction in CO2 emissions since I was elected, despite the colossal increase in population and economic activity.  We have reduced CO2 emissions by more than 50,000 tonnes per year.  We have retrofitted 110,000 homes, to say nothing of the 400 public buildings that we have done, savings hundreds of thousands of carbon per year.  We have invested hugely in green space.  We have had 11 rundown parks improved, 12 strategically important green spaces done up and 100 pocket parks created.  We have planted 20,000 trees.  By 2025, a quarter of the surface of London, thanks to this mayoralty, will be covered with trees and it goes on. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.  Thank you. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It goes on.  Waste to landfill, under this mayoralty, has been reduced from 53% to 25%.  We have cut it in half.  You should be cheering.  This is the greenest, cleanest mayoralty in history. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  Thank you.  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It absolutely is, and you should be proud even to have been in City Hall throughout this period.  It is true.  I have mentioned the parks. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  Mr Mayor, my original question was kiboshed by monitoring officers.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Can we attend to this side of the room?


Murad Qureshi AM:  Yes, yes.  Do I have your attention, Mr Mayor?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.


Murad Qureshi AM:  OK.  Thank you very much.  My original question was actually kiboshed by monitoring officers and the assertions made were actually made by your cheerleaders in the Evening Standard.  On 5 March 2015, this month, in their editorial they said,


“Today’s figures on air pollution in the capital should be deeply worrying for Londoners and a source of shame for City Hall.  All 50 of Britain’s worst blackspots for dirty air are in the capital, with toxicity levels up to three times the EU legal limit.  Marylebone Road is the most polluted, though each site has at least double the EU limit for nitrogen dioxide.”


Actually, the only salvation you have from the figures that Maria Eagle’s [Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] office released was that, of the streets, not the worst, it is actually Marylebone Road, which actually most of us in Marylebone knew anyway.  They ask, “We still need City Hall to take the problem much more seriously: London’s health is at risk”.  That is from your cheerleaders, Mr Mayor. 


When you appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee last year, you were asked what advice you would give to the next Mayor.  Your response to Joan Walley [Joan Walley MP, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee] was, “My advice to the next Mayor is to take the tough decisions early, take the heat, and it will all pay off”.  Is that not an admission that you regret dodging the difficult decisions ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No.  I am just going to repeat the figures.  I am going to repeat the figures.


Murad Qureshi AM:  ‑‑ on, for example, air pollution, by dealing with the issue now rather than in the future?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Absolute nonsense.  We have heard just this morning the justifiable feelings of resentment from people in the taxi trade who have invested massively in vehicles and are now facing an extra cost as a result of having to modernise and clean up their taxis.  That is something that we have imposed.  It was never done before.  There was never a clean taxi proposal from the previous administration.  They never dealt with taxi emissions, and we have done it, and you are seeing the results in improvement in air quality.


I just want to knock on the head this idea that London has uniquely bad air quality.  It is simply not true.  You look at Stuttgart, Paris, Munich, Rome, Milan; they all have higher NO2 than London. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  Actually, I was talking about in the UK.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Mexico City has virtually double the levels. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  I am avoiding nitrous oxide altogether. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Hong Kong, Istanbul, Beijing and Shanghai all have higher readings and we are continuing to get them down.  We have reduced, as I say, emissions by 20%.  One of the fascinating things the other day was the horror on the part of the doughty campaigners for clean air - I salute them - when they discovered the progress that we were making on the Marylebone Road.  They could not believe it and they could see their fox being shot before them. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  I will have to take you down the Marylebone Road --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We will continue to shoot their foxes, in a humane way, and will continue to improve air quality. 


Murad Qureshi AM:  I have run out of time.