The attempts by the Mayor of London to get Government support for reducing air pollution have failed.
The London Assembly has recognised this reality and supported a motion I put forward which asks the Mayor to rewrite the document which he only finalised a year ago.
Boris Johnson spent over two years drawing up his Air Quality Strategy and included a list of 14 specific proposals which he expected the Government to do in order to reduced pollution to more acceptable levels.
His office have held half a dozen meetings with Ministers and in the words of his Mayoral Transport Advisor, have “run out of ideas”.
The Government have ignored the Mayor’s plans, ignored the Mayor and written to the European Commission to inform them that London’s air pollution will remain over the European legal limit until around 2025.
Boris Johnson is nearly always sidelined by this Government, but I regarded his ability to protect the health of Londoners as the biggest test of whether our Mayor can deliver.
It is positively shocking that Boris got nothing out of them. In fact, it is worse than nothing as the Government has just changed the rules to ensure that it can pass to local authorities any fine for missing European standards on air pollution.
Londoners will not only continue to suffer premature death, a higher risk of heart attack and children’s lungs which are 20% less developed than those kids who live away from heavy traffic. Londoner’s could also be fined for the privilege.
The way forward is clear.
The Mayor has to rewrite his Air Quality Strategy and include major new measures that can make a big difference within a few years and fill the gap which the Government has created.
A very low emission zone for central London, which only allows the cleanest vehicles into the centre of London, could reduce NO2 air pollution below the European limit, according to a report commissioned by the City of London.
The Mayor could also reinstate the pledge, which he recently abandoned, that all new London buses are hybrids from next year.
Finally, we need to increase the pace of traffic reduction in London by lowering fares and investing in cycling facilities in outer London.