Your views: how can we clean up our air?
The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is taking urgent action to help end London’s ‘public health emergency’, after it was revealed that:
- almost 10,000 Londoners die from long-term exposure to air pollution every year
- 443 schools in the capital are in areas exceeding safe air quality levels.
Londoners were invited to take part in a consultation on how to improve air quality.
What is happening now?
TfL are currently analysing the responses and will be reporting to the Mayor this spring. We'll keep you posted.
Transcript of Sadiq's speech
It’s great to be here today at one of London’s truly iconic institutions.
Great Ormond Street is a world-leading hospital.
Transforming the lives of young children every single day.
Providing amazing care and support.
It is no exaggeration to say that it is only thanks to the healthcare provided by the brilliant doctors and staff here, that thousands of adults are alive today who would not otherwise be with us.
On behalf of everyone here, I’d like to pay tribute to the staff and the excellent work they do.
And can I also thank the hospital for hosting us this morning.
However, I’m not here today to talk about our healthcare system or our incredible hospitals like Great Ormond Street – that’s for another day.
But I am here to talk about a health emergency we are walking into.
An issue of life and death.
An issue that is already damaging the health of Londoners – including our children and our grandchildren – every single day.
And an issue that will become an increasing burden on our hospitals - like this one - until we tackle it head on.
I am of course talking about London’s dangerous and polluted air.
Anniversary of Clean Air Act / scale of the challenge
It was sixty years ago to this very day – on the 5 July 1956 – that the Clean Air Act became law.
It was passed following the great London Smogs of the 1950s.
It made a huge difference to life in London – and saved countless lives.
It was one of the great political achievements of the last century.
Yet today we face another pollution emergency here in London.
And the anniversary today is a timely reminder that it is possible to make a difference, if we are willing to be bold and brave.
Despite huge pressure from vested interests, British politicians in the 1950s did an amazing thing and responded on the scale that was required.
They stood up and said: this is not good enough – we are not prepared to let Londoners die unnecessarily like this.
Now it’s our turn to act.
For the good of Londoners today and for future generations to come.
Because just as it was in the 1950s, air pollution in London today is literally killing Londoners.
It is one of the biggest challenges we face as a city.
And unlike the smoky pollution of the past, today’s pollution is a silent and hidden killer.
You can’t see it.
You can’t smell it.
And you can’t taste it.
But we know it’s seriously damaging our health.
We know air pollution is permanently affecting children’s lung development – resulting in smaller lungs for life.
And we know that nearly 10,000 Londoners are dying early every single year because of long-term exposure.
Two pollutants in particular are at dangerously high levels:
The first is Nitrogen Dioxide – a toxic gas which inflames the lungs, stunting their growth and exacerbating diseases such as asthma.
In many parts of London, Nitrogen Dioxide levels are now three times higher than the safe legal limit.
It’s got so bad that annual emission limits were broken on Putney High Street just eight days into the new year - with Oxford Street, Earls Court and Brixton all following suit before the end of January.
That’s an entire year’s legal allowance of hourly Nitrogen Dioxide exceeded before the first two weeks of the year had even passed!
The second type of dangerous pollutant is known as PM10 or PM2.5.
These are carcinogenic particles which also cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases that are breaching safe levels across London.
As a city – and as a country – we can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend it is ok to carry on as we are.
The time to act was yesterday.
How can we stand by when many of the worst pollution hotspots are around schools?
How can we stand by when our children are being exposed to dangerously polluted air, putting them at greater risk of serious health conditions, condemning a whole generation?
And how can we stand by any longer when we know that it’s within our power to actually do something about this problem?
The simple answer is - we can’t.
And I won’t.
I believe I have a responsibly - a solemn duty – and a mandate to act.
And that is exactly what I intend to do.
The scale of our failure to tackle this problem is demonstrated by our failure to meet our legal requirements.
The Government missed a major deadline back in 2010 to be compliant with legal limits for air pollution.
Its original Air Quality Plan stated that London wouldn’t be compliant until 2030 - twenty years after the legal deadline.
And when the Supreme Court ordered Ministers to develop a new plan last year – they only upgraded their target for London to 2025.
That would still be 15 years late - far too late for many children growing up in London, who will have to deal with lasting health complications.
There is currently a legal case at the High Court against the Government, challenging its air quality plans as inadequate.
But despite all the clear evidence and the need to act, the Government is still stubbornly defending its position that London can only meet legal limits by 2025.
In my view, this is not right – and it’s not good enough.
The Government’s plan is based on the very limited ambitions of Ministers and the previous Mayor to tackle this problem in London.
That’s why I have chosen to actively intervene in this legal case, and will now be arguing that we can, and we must, do more to speed up the process.
I am confident that with new measures - along with the necessary support from the Government - London can be legally compliant – and we can save more Londoners lives - long before 2025.
This brings me on to the new, bold policy proposals I am here to announce today.
The aim is to make these as significant, effective and transformative to London as the Clean Air Act was in 1956.
In my first week in office, I announced I would launch a public consultation on a major package of measures.
Following detailed and extensive work by City Hall officials – we are ready to launch the first round of this consultation.
First on the list is a proposal to implement a new Emissions Surcharge – a toxicity charge - or a T-Charge as it has been named - on the most polluting vehicles entering central London during Congestion Charge hours.
This new T-Charge would start operating from towards the end of 2017 - ahead of the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone coming into effect in 2020 or before.
And it would apply to all vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emission standards – broadly speaking those registered before 2005 – and would cost an extra ten pounds per day on top of the existing Congestion Charge.
To make it fair for those residents already living within the Congestion Charge Zone, a 90 per cent discount would apply – the same discount they already receive on the Congestion Charge.
But be in no doubt, this would be the toughest crack down on the most polluting vehicles by any major city around the world.
The scale of the challenge we face deserves nothing less.
Going forward, Londoners need to consider much more carefully what type of vehicle they choose to buy and to use.
And this is just the start.
The consultation also includes plans for an even stronger crack down on vehicles pumping out hazardous pollutants.
Under these proposals, cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles would need to meet new emission standards when the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone comes into effect in 2020, or even earlier.
And rather than the original limited plans for this to only operate within the existing central London Congestion Charge Zone, I want to consult on extending it to benefit a much wider area – right up to the North Circular and South Circular roads
Cars and vans would have to be either Euro 6 emissions standard if diesel - no more than around 5 years old in 2020 - or Euro 4, if petrol.
If they do not meet these standards, drivers would have to pay twelve pounds fifty extra per day.
And we have plans to come down even harder on the most polluting buses, coaches and trucks.
These vehicles would have to meet the Euro 6 diesel standard London-wide by 2020 at the least, or pay a hundred pound charge every day they drive in our great city.
Again, this would mean London would have the toughest emission standards of any major city in the world when the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone is brought in.
The scale of the challenge we face deserves nothing less.
One of the biggest tasks we have when formulating these new measures is looking at how we can deal with the problem of diesel vehicles.
Old diesel cars can emit up to 20 times as much pollution as petrol equivalents.
And even brand new Euro 6 standard diesel cars have been found to fail the required emission standards.
It’s staggering that 90 per cent of road transport Nitrogen Dioxide emissions in central London now come from diesel vehicles.
But despite this growing problem, the proportion of diesel vehicle sales in the UK has doubled from around 25 per cent to 50 per cent in the last decade alone.
We now have to face the reality that if we are going to come close to tackling air pollution in London, we have to tackle the problem of dirty diesels too.
So until car manufacturers can start delivering vehicles that meet the legally required emission standards in the real world, we must send a clear message that cleaner, greener vehicles are what we need for built-up, urban environments like London.
Need for further national action
Now, as much as I would like it to be the case - we can’t do everything in London alone.
We will need the Government’s help.
So we are putting forward a host of initiatives that I believe the Government should implement alongside our new measures in London.
In particular, I have given the go-ahead for Transport for London to start work on detailed plans for a diesel scrappage scheme, which should be part of a wider national scheme delivered by the Government.
Unfortunately, I don’t have time now to go through every proposal in the consultation, but I encourage you all to take a detailed look.
Because I want to hear your views.
Because I want to hear what Londoners think about the problem of air quality – and about our plans to fix it.
And because I am the first to admit that we don’t have a monopoly on wisdom - and we will only succeed if we tap into Londoners’ ideas and innovation.
I want the public to play a key role as their feedback will help develop our plans into formal proposals, which will then be subject to further consultation later this year.
Air quality in the context of leaving the EU
Finally, I want to end today by addressing how leaving the EU could impact on our ability to improve air quality in London.
The EU has an established legal framework on tackling air pollution, which has now become part of UK law.
Without this it is doubtful the Government would have even taken the limited action it has so far.
On top of this, pollution clearly doesn’t respect borders and, ultimately, this is a problem we can only solve with co-ordinated action across cities and countries.
Pollution from Europe blows across London when the wind is right, and our pollution blows over European cities too.
Clearly, the UK leaving the EU could weaken our ability to tackle air pollution.
And it could mean the public will end up with less legal protection over their right to breathe clean air.
So as well as the plans I have outlined in the consultation today, I will insist that London has a seat at the table when the Government and Brussels start negotiating, and I will continue to work with my counterparts across Europe through organisations like EUROCITIES and C40 - the Cities Climate Leadership Group.
The need for a new 21st Century Clean Air Act
As an immediate step, I am also today calling on the Government to seize the spirit of the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act and to introduce new legislation fit for the 21st century.
A new Clean Air Act should put in place the strongest possible legal protections to ensure that the existing legal limits for air pollutants are retained, and not undone by Brexit.
And it should unlock the innovation of cities across the country by freeing us to tackle air pollution from the source.
Allowing us to tackle pollution from construction emissions, in the same way that we can crack down on vehicle emissions.
What is clear to me is that Leaving the EU should not be the first step in us going back to being known as the ‘dirty man’ of Europe.
The 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act should spur us on.
One of the great smogs in London in 1952 killed 4,000 people.
Today, nearly 10,000 Londoners are dying early every year.
It is clear that we are facing a real and present danger to our health and to the health of our children and grandchildren. And that it is imperative we speed up our efforts.
I am not saying it’s going to be easy.
We will need to implement big and sometimes difficult policies.
The scale of the challenge we face deserves nothing less.
And I know some of these plans may not be universally popular.
But to those who ask about the need for tough action:
Think about if you’re happy with the air you breathe in every day – the air you breathed on your way here today and the air you will breathe on your way home after this.
Think about the traffic islands across London packed with children and pushchairs every morning - metres from exhaust pipes pumping out toxic particles.
Think about the 360 primary schools and 86 secondary schools in London that are located in areas where Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations exceed the legal limits.
And think about the how children are ultimately defenceless to air pollution.
They can’t vote. They don’t get a say. Yet they are stuck with the health effects for life.
This is why I won’t shy away from doing the right thing.
From doing all I can.
And with my plans announced today - plus coordinated action by the Government and businesses – I believe we can make a real difference.
And save lives.
So I am asking for your support.
Let’s not let the simple fact that we are talking about a hidden killer mean we are incapable of garnering support for action.
Let’s do this together for London and for all Londoners.
This consultation launched soon after the Mayor was elected and ran between 5 – 23 July 2016. It enabled Londoners to respond to a number of initial proposals put forward by the Mayor, including:
- bringing the implementation of the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) forward by one year to 2019
- expanding the ULEZ beyond central London in 2020
- introducing a new Emissions Surcharge from 2017 for older polluting vehicles entering central London
- giving TfL the go-ahead to start looking at a diesel scrappage scheme as part of a wider national scheme run by the government
- keeping Londoners better informed and alerted when pollution is at its worst
- making sure TfL leads by example by cleaning up its bus fleet and buying only hybrid or zero emission double-decker buses from 2018.
We obtained the views of a record 16,000 Londoners – the highest number of responses to a City Hall consultation ever. Londoners gave him their overwhelming support on a bold and comprehensive package of measures to tackle air quality in London.
Results of stage 1 are published on the London Datastore.
Stage 2 of the consultation was managed by Transport for London and received over 15,000 responses.
Londoners responded to a formal proposal to introduce an Emissions Surcharge for older polluting vehicles entering central London from October 2017.
Londoners were also asked to respond to a number of ideas to improve the Ultra Low Emission Zone. This is a separate scheme that will operate 24 hours, 7 days a week, and introduce stricter emissions standards for vehicles.
What’s the problem with our air quality?
You can find out more about air quality in London using the links below:
- the equivalent of 9,416 Londoners die early every year due to air pollution
- the cost of health impacts caused by air pollution on London’s economy is up to £3.7 billion. This is made up of the cost of treatment, lost work hours and concern and inconvenience to family members
- in 2010, 433 of London’s 1,777 primary schools were in areas where pollution breached the legal limit for NO2
- The British Lung Foundation published data showing the risk of lung disease in different parts of London. Lung diseases are caused by a range of factors including air pollution.