At their hustings last week the six Labour mayoral hopefuls called on Londoners to change their behaviour to tackle the scourge of air pollution.
Dame Tessa Jowell wanted Londoners to give up driving in in their cars. She would pedestrianise the centre of London and only allow electric vehicles to come into London. David Lammy exhorted working parents to get their children to walk or cycle instead of driving their kids to school. Sadiq Khan’s answer was to spend lots more money on cycling, the next generation of electric buses and two million trees.
Tackling air pollution is clearly a huge challenge. However, the next mayor needs a plan that goes beyond this nanny state approach of telling Londoners how to lead their lives or cynical uncosted spending pledges.
Under Boris Johnson, back in 2010 London became the first city in the world to publish a study estimating the health effects of air pollution.
The King’s College Report, commissioned by the GLA, suggested that the equivalent of 4,300 deaths in London during 2008 had been attributable to long-term exposure to particulate matter.
The latest report from King’s College includes the impact of nitrogen dioxide, and suggests that the equivalent of up to 5,900 deaths were attributable to long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide in 2010.
The same research argues air pollution reduces average life expectancy in London by 25 months. The average Londoner exposed to 2010 levels of pollution through their lives could lose around nine months life from particle pollution and up to 16 months from nitrogen dioxide.
Air pollution is not just a public health emergency but an economic one too: London will suffer hugely if a future mayor fails to tackle this problem. Businesses now choose to locate in Shanghai rather than Beijing largely because of air pollution in their capital city.
London is currently ranked 15th among world cities for air quality – my mission is to get our capital into the top 10.
My plan to achieve this starts with a ban on diesel vehicles that do not meet emission standards from the congestion charge zone as fast as humanly possible.
The City of London has shown the way forward by negotiating four clean air zones with Addison Lee so that 370 of their drivers will switch from petrol to electric using technology to inform the drivers when they enter the zones.
I will also increase the congestion charge for all commercial vehicles – including buses – that fail to meet these emission standards. Diesel buses that miss the required level will be removed within my first year of office.
I will bring forward the requirement that all newly licenced taxis must have zero-emission capability by 2018 to July 2017. I would also encourage greater take up of electric cars by expand the scheme to 5,000 charge points by 2018, up from 1400 charge points currently. And I would double the size of the mayor’s air quality fund, set up by Boris in 2012.
There is no doubt that tackling air pollution is a priority. But that plan must be deliverable.