London Assembly report takes aim at diesel cars

Environment Committee urges Mayor and government to ‘bin diesel’ to boost air quality

The London Mayor must put in place further measures to reduce the use of diesel vehicles in the capital as they are a “major contributor” to air pollution, according to a report published today (July 14) by the London Assembly’s environment committee.

London Assembly members have urged the Mayor to expand the size of the proposed ULEZ and bring it in sooner than 2020

London Assembly members have urged the Mayor to expand the size of the proposed ULEZ and bring it in sooner than 2020

Estimates suggest more than 3,000 deaths in London each year are attributable to air pollution, which is 7% of all annual adult deaths in the capital and puts air pollution second only to smoking as an environmental cause of death.

And, according to the 34-page report – ‘Driving away from diesel: Reducing air pollution from diesel vehicles’ — diesel road traffic is responsible for around 40% of London’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and a “broadly similar proportion” of particulate matter PM10.

As such, the report urges that the planned ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) is introduced sooner than 2020 and for it to cover a larger area than just central London.

The ULEZ should also be kept under review and include tighter emission standards for heavily polluting vehicles than currently proposed, while “consideration should be given to removing all diesel cars from the exempt category”.

Under current plans, cars must be zero-emission to drive in the ULEZ from 2025, but today’s report suggests that goods vehicles should also have to meet this standard from 2025.

The Committee does however support the Mayor’s suggested diesel vehicle scrappage scheme, and calls for the government to support the policy: “With a government scrappage scheme, the Mayor should consider removing all diesel cars from ULEZ exemption — other European cities are considering diesel bans. And, supported by effective charging infrastructure, the Mayor should bring forward from 2025 the date by which he proposes to restrict the exemption to zero-tailpipe-emission cars.”

In addition, the current ULEZ plans send out the “wrong signal” by allowing 300 New Routemaster buses to travel in the zone without meeting Euro VI standards, and so these buses should be retrofitted, the report argues.

Other recommendations include an “urgent” review of the Chancellor’s recently announced changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (see story) so that it better reflects “local toxic pollutants such as NOx and PM as well as carbon dioxide”, as well as continued support of cleaner technologies for HGVs, such as hybrid, electric and fuel cell systems.


The Committee, chaired by Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Stephen Knight, makes a number of recommendations regarding taxi emissions in the report.

The London Mayor announced in January last year that by 2018 all new taxis registered to operate in the capital must be ‘zero emission capable’ (see story).

However, today’s report calls on the Mayor to consult further over the proposals with the taxi industry, and for him to set out how zero emission taxis and the necessary corresponding infrastructure (including rapid charging network or hydrogen stations for example) will be available from 2018.

It also urges the Mayor, Boris Johnson, to explain how heavier-polluting taxis will be phased out before 2025.

Commenting on the report, Stephen Knight AM, said: “The Committee has been pushing for NO2 compliance for some time now but following the judgment from the Supreme Court in April, the government is now obliged to act by law. We urge the Mayor and the government to take our recommendations on board and we call on the Mayor to finally take ownership of the matter in order to help London’s air quality meet legal limits.”

The Liberal Democrat Assembly Member added:

“As petrol engines become cleaner with time it’s becoming clear that diesel emissions are a large part of the problem, so our report addresses this issue specifically.”

Conservative opposition

The findings of the report are not supported by all members of the environment committee, though, with the two Conservative Party members on the committee — Kit Malthouse and James Cleverly — requesting that their opposition to the document’s conclusions is noted in writing.

According to the ‘minority opinion’ stated in the report, the two Conservative Assembly Members are “particularly concerned” about the recommendation to bring the ULEZ forward from 2020, widen its remit, and to tighten its emission standards.

They state: “We do not feel that there would be sufficient benefit to justify the additional restrictions and costs to vehicle owners, or the impact on London’s economy that these measures are likely to bring.

“We strongly feel that a far better approach to tackling diesel is through a focus on incentives, including a diesel scrappage scheme, as well as the taxi incentives recently announced by the Mayor.”


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