Govt to spend big to stop London air pollution

Despite its clear skies, London has some of the world's worst NO2 Pollution. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Despite its clear skies, London has some of the world's worst NO2 Pollution. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The British capital, London has announced a new large spending plan in an effort to cut back on air pollution.

According to an announcement by the city’s local government, £875m has been earmarked to be spent over five years to help alleviate the London air pollution problem – a significant increase on the previous planned expenditure.

While not as obviously polluted as megacities in China and India, London suffers from some of the world’s highest levels of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) air pollution.

Nitrogen dioxide is produced as a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, with its most common source being car exhaust fumes.

The Greater London Authority estimates that each year at least 9,000 people die from health complications related to the city’s air pollution.

Already in 2017, the city is off to a poor start, breaching the EU’s maximum NO2 level of 200 micrograms per cubic meter in the first week of the year.

As part of the city’s plan to tackle the problem, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has set his sights on eliminating highly polluting diesel-fuelled cars from central areas of the city.

Toxicity charge to tackle London air pollution

In order to do this, they have announced a ‘Toxicity Charge’ for such vehicles operating within the city’s soon-to-be-expanded Congestion Charging Zone.

“These vehicles are the main source of emissions, but many motorists bought these in good faith as at the time they were wrongly informed that diesel was the greener choice,” wrote Shirley Rodrigues, London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy in an editorial for Huffington Post.

Beyond removing these cars from the central city, London is also planning on upgrading its aging, bus fleet with new, greener models.

“Tackling London’s filthy air is one of my main priorities and I am delighted to be delivering on that commitment by introducing these new Low Emission Bus Zones. Removing the oldest, dirtiest buses from our streets and delivering Low Emission Bus Zones will make a big contribution to tackling transport pollution,” said Mayor Khan.

Some of the first bus routes to be replaced with the new buses will be those which pass by schools, recognizing the fact that children (and the elderly) are most at risk for NO2 pollution.