Green party mayoral candidate Sian Berry has unveiled a comprehensive list of measures to clean up London’s highly polluted air by “2020 at the absolute latest.”
Poor air quality is blamed for thousands of deaths each year and campaigners say current Mayor Boris Johnson has failed to provide the urgent action needed to tackle the issue.
The Mayor has been repeatedly criticised for limiting the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will require vehicles to comply with new European emission standards, to central London.
Some campaigners and politicians want the scheme to be start sooner than the currently planned September 2020, but Mr Johnson argues that drivers need time to upgrade their vehicles to less polluting models.
If elected to succeed Johnson, Ms Berry says she would “immediately” begin consultation on dropping the ULEZ in favour of a London-wide scheme operating alongside a new traffic demand management scheme which would replace the Congestion Charge.
While these new schemes were being developed, Berry says she would increase the existing Congestion Charge “for all but the cleanest vehicles,” to create a Very Low Emission Zone. She would also allow local councils to opt into the scheme in a bid to clean up local roads.
The mayoral hopeful has also promised to “accelerate” Transport for London’s programme of replacing diesel buses with hybrids and electric vehicles to ensure all buses comply with emissions standards.
Mr Johnson has previously faced criticism after it emerged his flagship New Routemaster bus had been exempted from the ULEZ’s rules, allowing it to operate in central London despite not meeting the standards required of other vehicles.
Berry has pledged to support car owners in legal action against car makers who cheat their emissions tests and to lobby Government for the cash to encourage Londoners to switch to cycling, public transport or low and zero-emission vehicles.
She said: “The time for half-hearted efforts to clean up our polluted air and ensure compliance with existing laws is past.
“If I’m elected Mayor I will immediately exclude the most polluting cars, vans and lorries from central London, and speed up the switchover to make all new buses and taxis zero-emission. I will cancel road-building plans and oppose all airport expansion.”
Last year London Assembly members criticised Johnson’s “disappointing” campaign which is meant to inform and alert Londoners about poor air quality.
Berry has promised to go much further than the current scheme, saying: “I also believe in telling Londoners the truth, and I will provide warnings about bad air days so people can protect their health by cutting car use and avoiding outdoor exercise.”