15 January 2018

London breathes cleanest January air for 10 years

In a symbolic victory, London has managed to maintain within its legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution during the initial two weeks of January.

For the past ten years running, the legal hourly air pollution limits have been breached within days of the New Year. In a sign that the capital is making improvements to its air quality, these limits have so far remained steady.

However, the Mayor’s office is predicting that legal limits will still be broken before the end of the month. 

For nitrogen dioxide limits to be breached, a continuous 18 hours of “very high pollution” levels have to be recorded at any individual site within the city. In 2017, this dubious honour went to Putney High Street, in the city’s south-west, when it breached limits by 6 January.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has vowed to make air quality a key issue of his administration, earmarking £800 million over 5 years to combat dangerous pollutants. Since taking office in May 2016 he has introduced a new Toxicity Charge on dirtier cars and the capital’s first Low Emission Bus Zone. City Hall also plans to introduce an Ultra-Low Emission Zone in early 2019.

It claims that these measures will reduce nitrogen oxide by 45 percent in central London by 2020.

Mr. Khan commented on the initial good news: “At long last we are seeing some improvements in our toxic air, but much more needs to be done before Londoners can finally breathe a proper sigh of relief. I’ve made it my priority to safeguard Londoners’ health by targeting the capital’s most polluted areas and ensuring TfL have the funding needed to deliver the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and its expansion to help transform London’s air.

However, much more needs to be done to improve air quality. For example, every part of London has exceeded guidelines for particulate matter set by the World Health Organisation.

He added: “I can’t stop this health crisis without more help. Londoners deserve a Government that wakes up to the scale of this problem and delivers tough new air quality legislation so that legal limits are met all year round. Instead of shamefully blocking the capital from accessing the new National Clean Air Fund, the Government should be helping me deliver a vehicle scrappage scheme to firmly and fairly get the filthiest cars off our roads now."

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