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UPDATED: Is Our Bad Air Getting Worse?

STOP PRESS: Official figures from the Borough as interpreted here by Kings College London show a likely increase in air pollution from 2015. Further worrying evidence that underlines the importance of monitoring future years as development gathers pace throughout all Greenwich.

The results of our 2017 air quality survey of nitrogen dioxide levels are shown in the map below, by the red figures (The black figures show the average for 2016/17). Put simply, pollution is “illegal” along all our main roads, is “elevated” off these roads, and may be getting worse. We will conduct small surveys, and use Council data, to establish this inconvenient truth in future years.

The Response to This Public Health Emergency

So far our governors have responded to this emergency by:

  • a “weak and incoherent air quality plan” (ClientEarth) from central government

  • a Toxic tax on some older vehicles in central London, and an extension of the ULEZ to within the North and South circular roads, these future measures from the Mayor

  • a Low Emission Neighbourhood from the Council and the promise of local mitigation measures from TfL to counteract the toxic Silvertown Tunnel (which is supported by the Mayor)

These are puny and risible responses to the early deaths of 9,500 people in London alone (40,000 in Britain), and the far more serious injurious effects on the unborn and children. The Mayor’s own advisors have pointed to a coherent strategy for London. This must be backed at national and Borough levels.

Did You Know That?

  • the costs of the Silvertown Tunnels could pay for the replacement of 40% of the London fleet by green buses

  • Birmingham has a scheme to green all its taxis

  • the London cruise port in Greenwich is planned to burn 700 litres of dirty diesel an hour when it could use greener onshore power supply (OPS)

  • Diesel cars can be more polluting than HGVs which largely comply with tight emission standards

  • removing all diesel cars from London would limit illegal pollution to just a few hotspots; removing small vans would be even better (IPPR)

  • over 80% of all new cars are leased (Chris Giles, FT, 6 January, 2017).

This last fact alone should help cool the political hot potato of weaning owners off dirty diesel cars without an unaffordable car scrappage scheme paid for by taxpayers.

Five Questions for Our Policy Makers

If the strategy is so clear, why is there a lack of real action? We must ask our governors:

  • why the bus fleet cannot be greened more quickly

  • why London cannot have a green taxi scheme like Birmingham

  • why London needs a filthy cruise port, without OPS unlike New York and Hamburg

  • why any scrappage scheme cannot be targeted just at diesel vans

  • why all diesel cars cannot be banned from all London roads in the near future.

Come on, brave politicians, end the public health emergency before another quarter of a million people die in Britain.

STOP PRESS: All four parliamentary candidates recognised the importance of air quality. Every one said that a Clean Air Act is necessary and that a cruise liner terminal must have onshore power supply.

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