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Air quality action will benefit the poorest Londoners most

London will launch the world’s first ultra low emission zone in April in the central congestion zone

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The London mayor has a range of measures in place to improve the city's air quality
The London mayor has a range of measures in place to improve the city's air quality

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s measures to improve London’s air quality will benefit all Londoners, but particularly those living in the UK capital’s deprived areas, according to new research.

 

The measures include launching the world’s first ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) in April in the central London congestion zone and expanding to the North and South circular in October 2021,

 

London’s most at risk

 

People living in the capital’s most deprived areas are, on average, exposed to about a quarter more NO2 pollution, according to a previous report by the Royal College of Physicians. A new report commissioned by City Hall, and carried out by air quality and climate change emissions consultants, Aether, shows that the mayor’s tough measures would help improve air quality so that the difference would narrow considerably, with the gap reduced by 71 per cent by 2030, from 7.55 µg/m3 in 2013 to 2.23 µg/m3.

 

The Royal College of Physician’s report said that across the country, toxic air leads to around 40,000 premature deaths every year, and increases the risk of asthma, cancer, dementia, imposing a financial burden of more than £20 billion on the economy every year.

 

The research reveals children from some of the poorest backgrounds will benefit the most from the mayor’s bold measures to tackle air quality. A previous Aether study found of the schools in the highest polluting areas of London, around 80 per cent were defined as being ‘deprived’. Today’s report predicts that as a result of the mayor’s action, no schools in the capital will be exposed to illegally high levels of air pollution by 2025.

“Improving London’s air quality is a social justice issue as well as a public health matter, given it is certain communities which are affected by filthy air the most”

The number of primary schools in areas exceeding legal limits for harmful NO2 is projected to drop dramatically from 371 in 2013 to just four in 2020, while the number of secondary schools is expected to fall from 82 in 2013 to only one in 2020, with no schools at all in high polluting NO2 areas by 2025.

 

The report also looked at the exposure of different ethnic groups. Areas of London where people from mixed or multiple ethnic groups were more likely to live were also more likely to have higher levels of NO2, whereas those areas where white residents were more likely to live were more likely to have lower concentrations. Mainly as a result of the mayor’s measures, including ULEZ, the difference in exposure between these areas is expected to reduce by 85 per cent.

 

Further government action required

 

Today’s report highlights that while progress is being made to reduce NO2 levels, these improvements are lower for PM2.5, with current research suggesting that all Londoners will still live in areas exceeding World Health Organisation guidelines in 2030. Khan does not have the regulatory powers he requires to address this problem – including ULEZ-style powers for construction equipment and the Thames, and powers to address emissions from buildings. He continues to lobby Government for these ahead of new clean air legislation being tabled later this year.

 

“Improving London’s air quality is a social justice issue as well as a public health matter, given it is certain communities which are affected by filthy air the most,” said Khan.

 

“Today’s report shows that some of the poorest Londoners will benefit the most from the bold measures we are taking to tackle London’s filthy air. By taking tough action, we can ensure that within six years the most deprived schools will be no more likely to have higher exposure to NO2 pollution than the least deprived schools. It cannot be right that your background and where you live determines the quality of the air you breathe and that is exactly why measures like the ultra low emission zone are so vital.”

 

Earlier this week, Sadiq urged London’s drivers and business owners who drive in the London Congestion Charge Zone to check whether their vehicles comply with new, stricter emissions standards designed to tackle the capital’s toxic air, as the three-month countdown to the launch of the central London ULEZ began.

“It cannot be right that your background and where you live determines the quality of the air you breathe”

Replacing the current Toxicity Charge, vehicles will need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorcycles, £100 for buses, coaches and lorries) to travel within the zone. The Congestion Charge will be unchanged by the introduction of ULEZ and will continue to apply for all eligible vehicles entering the Congestion Charge zone. Drivers can use TFL’s simple online checking tool to see if their vehicle will meet ULEZ’s tough new emissions standards.

 

Alongside introducing the world’s first ULEZ, the mayor is also cleaning up the capital’s bus and taxi fleets, rolling out rapid charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles, delivering improvements to some of London’s most polluted schools, planting thousands of new trees and funding a scrappage scheme to help micro-businesses prepare for ULEZ.

 

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