Boris and a Routemaster

Boris’s ultra air plan is all fluff and no substance

Boris Johnson claims to have today announced a ‘game changer for air quality in the capital’ with the creation of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020. However, if you look carefully at the language, you see that he is only announcing ‘his intention’, asking TfL to prepare plans which ‘look into’ introduction and feasibility of such a scheme for 2020. And here’s the real kicker, this ‘vision’ means that it is no longer necessary for phase 5 of the Low Emission Zone to apply to HGVs and coaches from 2015 as planned.

Let’s look at some more concrete facts here: air pollution in London is a serious problem, largely as a result of road traffic. London pollution breaks legal limits, and is estimated to cause 4,300 premature deaths each year. It has been shown to reduce the capacity of children’s lungs, something which stays with them for life. Other links between air pollution and health include include increased severity of asthma attacks, reduced birthweight of newborn babies, lung cancer and heart attacks.

So certainly dramatic action is needed. But it needs to be soon, and it needs to be definite.

One positive we could draw from this is that the decision to make this bold announcement must stem from increasing public awareness and pressure for action. However, we suspect that the timing of ClientEarth’s court case against the UK government could also have a role to play – read Alan Andrews’ blog.

The Healthy Air Campaign and partners will continue to work to increase public understanding of the issue, and pressure government to take real and urgent steps to clean up our air.

Have a look at our London pages here, and sign up to support the campaign.


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