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Report on 'Lethal and Illegal: London's Air Pollution Crisis'

This event at City Hall on 18 July 2016 introduced new air pollution research from the IPPR think-tank, using modelling from King’s College and commissioned by Greenpeace. This research concludes (controversially) that diesel cars will have to be phased out on London's roads over the next decade to ensure safe and legal levels of air pollution. The findings feed into Mayor Sadiq Khan’s current consultation on air quality. His deputy Val Shawcross told the assembled audience of transport and air quality experts, pressure groups, and a few residents that the Mayor is keen to formulate policy as soon as possible.

Recommendations from the IPPR include a £10 daily toxicity (T)-charge from the end of 2017 for users of older diesel cars, with a 90% discount for residents. Other suggestions include extending the Ultra Low Emissions Zone as far as the North and South Circular Roads, with a daily charge of £12.50 for non-compliers.

Peter Harris from the logistics company UPS pointed out that traders using small vans have no alternative to diesel models. UPS is trialling electric trucks and looking at biomethane fuel as well, but these would not be available to smaller operators due to capital costs.

Alan Andrews, a lawyer for Client Earth which took the government to court over air pollution,

warned that 'Brexit is not good for air quality'. He feared that standards from the EU's Ambient Air Quality Directive would 'fall away' in the UK after the exit is complete. He argued for a new Clean Air Act for the UK which would use WHO standards, stricter than the current EU levels.

Professor Jonathan Grigg, an eminent medic working with children’s respiratory problems, warned that air pollution had quantifiable effects on health over the 'whole life-course' even starting in the womb. He argued that scientists had not been very good at making it clear to the general public how serious the crisis really is.

Questions from the audience were many and varied. Greenwich residents asked about a scrappage scheme, the need to tackle all vehicles and not just cars as the easy option, and road-building such as the Silvertown tunnel.

There will be a further report from IPPR in September. Meanwhile, don’t forget to have your say and complete the survey in the Mayor’s air quality consultation before the end of July.

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