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London Air Quality Target Hit For First Time

22 January 2018 | Updated 01 January 1970

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, revealed this week ending Jan 19 that for the first time since modern records began London was entering the third week of January without having breached legal limits for toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution.

Every year for the last decade, London’s toxic air has exceeded legal hourly air pollution limits by January 6 and often by  January 3.

For London to breach legal hourly limits there needs to be a recording of 18 hours of very high pollution levels at any individual site. As of 15 January 2018 – London’s NO2 hourly average limit (of 200 ug/m3 for nitrogen dioxide) has exceeded eight hours across London.

The improvement in London's filthy air quality can be partly attributed to the hard-hitting measures the Mayor has introduced since he was elected, including the Toxicity Charge (T-Charge) for older, dirtier cars in central London and targeting the most polluted bus routes by delivering the first two in a series of Low Emission Bus Zones. 

In 2017 the first air quality breach took place on  January 6 on polluted Putney High Street. In 2016 there were 1248 hours above the legal limit on the High Street. To address this, in February 2017,  the bus fleet was upgraded along the High Street route, delivering the first Low Emission Bus Zone. This had a dramatic effect throughout last year reducing the number of hours breaching legal limits by more than 90 per cent (compared to 2016).


Still not good enough

However, air quality is still likely to exceed the NO2 hourly limit later this month and recent City Hall analysis shows every part of London exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines for dangerous particles (PM2.5)


London Ultra-Low Emission Zone

The Mayor has confirmed that even stronger vehicle emission standards will apply when the central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone is launched in April 2019, 17 months earlier than planned. The Mayor is currently consulting on reducing toxic emissions by expanding the ULEZ up to the North/South circular roads from 2021, and introducing the ULEZ standards for heavy vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries London-wide from 2020.

Transport for London has been asked to prioritise ULEZ expansion and they have earmarked £130 million to deliver the ambitious scheme as part of their five-year £800 million plan to transform London’s air quality. The Mayor’s air quality measures will reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) road transport emissions by around 45 per cent in central London by 2020 and around 30 per cent in inner and outer London by 2021. Approximately 100,000 people will no longer live in areas exceeding legal limits, which is a reduction of nearly 80 per cent in 2021.

Sadiq Khan said: "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."


Grants to help transform and create green spaces

£1.1 million in grants has been awarded to community projects across the capital to help them improve and create new local green spaces, including a community garden next to a school relocated following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower and an area to test new garden designs improving air quality near the next Low Emission Bus Zone.

Demand saw almost three times the original budget for this first year of the Community Green Space Grants, with 55 projects across 23 boroughs receiving between £5,000 and £50,000 through his Greener City Fund. The Mayor’s funding will be matched by an additional £2.8 million from the projects themselves, as well as other public, private and charitable funders.

Some 60 per cent of the projects receiving grants are in areas with poor access to green space and include improving parks, designing new green spaces, greening school playgrounds, tree planting, installing sustainable drainage and restoring waterways. They all contribute to making London a greener, healthier city and will involve 8,000 children and 14 schools, resulting in 130,000 square metres of green space, as well as rivers, canals and lakes, being improved (or 13 hectares, the equivalent of 18 football pitches).

Picture: Cathy Maund, Director of the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, said: “We were awarded funding to work with residents to make over Woodmans Mews Community Garden. We only 'discovered' this garden last September when we were approached by a local resident for advice on how we could help them improve this neglected space. The site has huge potential and we can't wait to get started. We will be harnessing the enthusiasm of residents and corporate volunteers to realise the project."

Article written by Cathryn Ellis | Published 22 January 2018


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