By Anders Lorenzen
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made action on air pollution one of his key issues. He has lamented London’s toxic air and has said that he himself has developed asthma due to its impact.
Last week the Mayor’s Office published a damning report revealing that every single Londoner is exposed to toxic, dangerous and dirty air. This came as Mr Khan opened the ‘Every Journey, Every Child’ conference focusing on how children are exposed to air pollution and road dangers. In his speech, the Mayor linked the issues of air pollution and climate change saying: “air pollution and climate change transcend national borders and city borders. The only way to respond to these global problems is with global solutions”.
The research revealed that every area of London contains levels of fine particulate matter, ‘PM2.5’, harmful to human health in amounts exceeding recommended guidelines. It also revealed that 7.9 million Londoners live in areas exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines by at least 50%. As a result, the Mayor signed London up to the Breath Life coalition, which works with other cities to bring down toxic air pollutants.
PM2.5 are considered to be one of the most damaging types of air pollution, due to their minute size and ability to travel extensively in the body. They increase the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, whilst children exposed to them are more likely to grow up with reduced lung function and develop asthma. PM 2.5 is also known to result in 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.
Around half of PM 2.5 emissions in London are from external sources outside of the city, however, the main sources of PM 2.5 emissions in London are from tyre and brake wear, construction and wood burning. Reducing these emissions and adhering to WHO guidelines will require coordinated action by governments and cities around the world to make a concerted shift towards walking, cycling and use of public transport, as well as the uptake of new technologies such as electric cars, the Mayor’s Office explained.
Mr Khan has called on the UK government to do more to tackle climate change as well as devolve more powers to him to tackle emissions from construction sites and wood burning. He wants to enforce a stricter set of emission standards and curb future sales of wood-burning stoves.
The next phase of the London Mayor’s strategy comes into effect on the 23rd of October, with the implementation of the T-Charge. This will remove older and more polluting vehicles from London’s roads, in particular, diesel vehicles – which are responsible for 88% of transport NOx emissions.
The Mayor commented: “This research is another damning indictment of the toxic air that all Londoners are forced to breathe every day. It’s sickening to know that not a single area of London meets World Health Organisation health standards. We should be ashamed that our young people – the next generation of Londoners – are being exposed to these tiny particles of toxic dust that are seriously damaging their lungs and shortening their life expectancy”.
The head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, offered praise for the Mayor of London air pollution strategy: “This is great news for Londoners. This support for the Breathe Life campaign and Sadiq Khan’s leadership means that millions of people can cease being hostage to toxic fumes. It sets an example of positive action that we hope cities around the world will follow.”