London doubles investment in improving air quality, reducing diesel use

The amount of money committed to tackling London’s air quality crisis will be more than doubled over the next five years, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has confirmed.

Ahead of the publication of the draft Transport for London (TfL) Business Plan, the Mayor has announced that £875 million (€1bn) will be invested in action to improve the quality of the UK capital’s air through to 2021/22.  

The Mayor is clear that ambitious and decisive action is needed to clean up the air in London, as each year 9,400 deaths that can be attributed to air quality related illnesses occur in the city.

“With nearly 10,000 Londoners dying early every year due to air pollution, tackling poor air quality is a public health emergency that requires bold action. I want London to be a world leader in how we respond to the challenge of cleaning up our air,” Khan said.

London does not meet legal requirements for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 474 of the capital’s schools are in areas where safe levels are being breached.  ‎

“London’s air quality continues to breach legal levels, which is why I have taken this unprecedented action,” the Mayor added.

The Mayor is proposing a range of far-reaching programmes to tackle the threat to health from poor air, enhancing the quality of life across the city. This includes:

  • Launching the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The Mayor is seeking views of Londoners on plans to introduce ULEZ early (from 2019), extending it to the North and South Circulars for all vehicles, and London-wide for lorries, coaches and buses potentially from 2019.
  • Consulting on the Emissions Surcharge (dubbed the T-Charge), which will remove older polluting vehicles from central London, involving £22 million of direct investment.
  • Introducing five Low Emission Neighbourhoods, spanning eight boroughs and involving a range of local businesses, with the Mayor and TfL contributing £5 million. 

Many parts of London are in breach of legal limits for NO2 and are not currently forecast by the UK government to meet them until 2025.

The full ULEZ package, including all associated measures such as rapid charging points, will see £610 million of investment overall.

As part of this investment, the Mayor has challenged TfL to be bold and act fast in greening its own fleet, for example by phasing out diesel-only buses and a committing to purchase only hybrid or zero-emission double decker buses from 2018.

Alongside the wide-ranging programme, the Mayor is calling on the government to “get a grip” and take immediate action to address the huge environmental challenges facing the capital.

“The onus is now on the Government to prove that they share my ambition. By funding a national diesel scrappage scheme and reforming vehicle excise duty the government could also prove that they understand the enormity of our air quality emergency,” Khan said.

The Mayor would like to see the government match his ambition and introduce a national diesel scrappage scheme, implement a 21st Century Clean Air Act, reform Vehicle Exercise Duty – making it less attractive to buy polluting cars – and give London the additional funding and powers it needs to tackle the public health emergency.

London joins Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, and Athens, who announced earlier in December that they would seek to cut back on diesel use and emissions within the metropoles.