Host of measures sought to cut London pollution

Think tank Policy Exchange and King’s College London recommend 29 measures to cut air pollution in capital

Millions of Londoners could live at least a month longer if a series of air pollution-busting measures are championed by the city’s Mayor and central government, according to a report published by Policy Exchange today (March 23).

Policy Exchange ten point plan image

The report sets out a 10-point plan and 29 policies to tackle air pollution (image: Policy Exchange)

The think tank’s latest report in partnership with King’s College London — ‘Up in the Air: Part 2’ — sets out a host of suggested policies to cut air pollution from the two main sectors affecting air quality in the capital of road transport and gas combustion.

As well as recommending policies to restrict and discourage diesel vehicles in the capital, the report  calls for ‘clean bus corridors’ on busy roads such as Oxford Street, Brixton Road and Knightsbridge, while also conceding that “London cannot act along in addressing the problem”.

And, it calls on the Mayor to deliver a new “more ambitious” overall air quality strategy for the capital, as well as an independent annual audit of London air quality policy in order to review and track progress towards achieving EU air quality limits.

The report states: “London needs an air quality strategy which is more ambitious, but also incorporates views from residents and businesses on what is realistic and in what timescale.”

However, Policy Exchange said that its recommendations “seek to deliver air quality improvements as soon as possible, whilst at the same time avoiding penalising people and businesses, and giving sufficient time to adapt”.

It follows part one of the report, which was published by Policy Exchange and King’s College London last year. This found that 12.5% of London’s total area — containing 3.8 million workers and 979 schools — exceeded legal EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2010 (see story).

“London needs an air quality strategy which is more ambitious, but also incorporates views from residents and businesses on what is realistic and in what timescale” – Policy Exchange

Earlier this month, meanwhile, the think tank also called on the Chancellor George Osborne to raise taxes on petrol and diesel fuel to help fund a diesel car scrappage scheme. Instead, however, last week’s Budget 2016 froze fuel duty for the sixth year running (see story).

Road transport

On tackling emissions from road transport, the report makes a total of 21 policy recommendations, encompassing buses, coaches, private hire vehicles, taxis, HGVs and passenger vehicles in London.

The report reiterates previous Policy Exchange recommendations for increasing Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) for diesels as well as several other tax policies — including a scrappage scheme — designed to drive consumers away from diesel vehicles and restrict their use in London.

It also urges the government to work with the motoring industry to provide robust data on real world emissions of NO2 and PM to consumers when buying vehicles.

Other policies include providing “greater certainty” over lower-emission liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) fuel, and taking immediate action to prevent pre-Euro 6 diesel cars from entering into the Private Hire Vehicle fleet.

With regards to the ULEZ, meanwhile, Policy Exchange argues that there should be tighter emission standards for buses, coaches, HGVs and diesel cars, while the bus fleet in central London should be upgraded to Euro VI by 2020 and the rest of London by 2023.

Gas combustion

The report also sets out to tackle emissions from energy and domestic gas boilers, which are also a major contributor to air pollution in London.

“Overall, it is important that air quality policies do not overlook gas combustion and seek to reduce emissions both from gas combustion and road transport,” the report states.

As such, Policy Exchange argues for a ultra low emission standard for domestic boilers and suggests and aim of replacing 500,000 of the capital’s boilers by 2020.

It also suggests linking stamp duty on houses to the energy performance of a home, as well as refocusing and expanding the existing boiler cashback scheme to maximise air quality benefits.

Such policies on domestic boilers, the report estimates, could lead to the reduction of an additional 1,000 tonnes (13%) of NOx emissions in London in 2020.

Finally, the think tank calls on the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to work more closely with Defra and to have much more regard to the air quality impacts associated with policy decisions”.

The report was produced with support from Trust for London, Bloomberg Philanthropies, City of London Corporation, the Liebreich Foundation, and Calor Gas Ltd.


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