London Student

London’s Air Pollution: An update on Khan’s latest efforts to clean up the capital

A new report, by a panel of health and environment experts, have said that Sadiq Khan’s plans to tackle pollution in the capital will “not go far enough”.

The report came shortly before the introduction of the new T-charge, which commenced yesterday.
The charge means that the most polluting vehicles are required to pay a further ten pounds to drive in the city centre.

The T-charge is part of a range of plans to tackle pollution from diesel cars. This is to be followed by the rolling-out of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) next year, essentially an additional charge for the biggest offenders.

While the report, carried out by a body of independent academics at the Centre for London, praised Khan’s efforts to a certain extent, it argued he must increase efforts to reduce car use whilst promoting public transport, walking and cycling. It also lays out several long term goals for better development of transport and public spaces.

Vehicles are the largest contributor to London’s dangerously high levels of air pollution. Some substances – such as carbon monoxide, or nitrogen dioxide – have been associated with worsening health conditions and poorer quality of life across the world.

Pollution hangs over London

Recent improvements in monitoring technology have also demonstrated the presence of particles and particulates, which have been proven to be detrimental to public health. These, which are particularly dangerous for younger people, were previously very difficulty to detect and are capable of settling within the body, creating health hazards for years to come.

The findings come amid mounting evidence of the health risks posed by rising air pollution, described by Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, as “one of the most urgent global crises of our times”.

It is now reported that London’s air exceeds global guidelines for PM2.5 particles and NO2 pollution, and vehicles on roads cause half of the air pollution in London. According to government figures, 48 of the major roads in London breach London’s legal limit for nitrous oxide alone.

This contributed to almost 10,000 deaths in 2010 in the capital alone according to a study commissioned by the Greater London Authority. With air pollution breaching legal limits for years, it is no surprise that 45% of Londoners are worried about living in the city according to a new poll from the British Heart Foundation.

As far as it goes for students, areas around central London are often much more congested, inevitably leading to higher air pollution. Visual maps that highlight the prevalence of air pollution in various boroughs around London are easily accessible, and it’s easy to look up both your university and your local neighbourhood.

London Air, a pollution monitoring website run by King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group, provides daily pollution forecasts and caught the severe spikes in pollution levels in January this year. Particularly high levels were recorded with air quality in London worse than Beijing, a city infamous for pollution levels. Mayor Khan described the situation as “shameful”.

Area of high levels of pollution within which lie the majority of London’s universities

Furthermore, the mayor’s vision for a greener future may be undermined by his controversial Silvertown Tunnel project, a proposal for a new urban motorway in East London. The TfL website claims the tunnel will “reduce congestion… and improve the reliability and resilience of the wider road network”. However, plans have already been stalled for a month by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, to give Government more time to consider the air pollution impact.

A year and a half since the mayor was elected on a platform of “tackling London’s dangerously polluted air” – we are still yet to see a significant improvement in a serious public health issue that has been borne by Londoners for far too long.


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Giulia Robinson