Mayor launches Breathe Better Together campaign

Campaign aims to boost air quality awareness in London in bid to reduce exposure to pollution

The London Mayor Boris Johnson today (January 30) launched a new capital-wide air quality public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging behaviour change to reduce exposure to air pollution.

But, he would not be drawn on whether Conservatives should support a UK-wide campaign.

According to the Mayor’s Office, the ‘Breathe Better Together’ campaign will be rolled out over the coming months through air quality information posters on London transport and adverts on the radio.

London Mayor Boris Johnson launches the Breathe Better Together campaign with school pupils inside an inflatable globe

London Mayor Boris Johnson launches the Breathe Better Together campaign with school pupils inside an inflatable globe

In addition, schools and businesses will participate in air pollution seminars, while Londoners will be encouraged to sign-up for free email and airTEXT alerts on air pollution. They will also be offered advice and tips to minimise exposure, with parents encouraged to walk or cycle on the school run using less polluted routes.

The campaign will additionally encourage drivers to switch their engines off when their cars are parked or stationary for long periods of time.

Launching the campaign, the Mayor said: “This is about promoting small simple steps we can all make to help improve air quality, protect ourselves from pollutants and indeed breathe better together. Today’s campaign is part of a series of strong measures I’m delivering to tackle air quality and safe guard the health and well-being of Londoners, but I’m fully aware much more needs to done.”

The Mayor’s environment advisor, Matthew Pencharz, added: “We are doing what we can to reduce emissions, but we don’t want to be nanny-ish about this. You have got to be reasonable. We feel you can actually reduce your exposure quite a lot by just altering your route ever so slightly. And I think it is very interesting that there is a lot of evidence showing it is actually a lot better to walk or cycle.

“We don’t want to lecture people, but by taking a side road you can reduce your exposure.”

Boris school pupils

Mr Johnson speaks to Norbury Manor Primary School pupils about air pollution

Mr Johnson is also the Tory candidate for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary seat at the upcoming General Election in May, and asked by whether the Conservatives would take on an air quality public awareness campaign at a national level, he responded: “I think this is something that people care about phenomenally.

“Since I’ve been mayor I’ve been really struck by how passionately people from all political parties — all backgrounds — care about air quality. It really matters and it is something we can improve – we have improved – but we need to go further and we need to go faster. So it is right at the top of our agenda.”

But Mr Johnson would not be drawn on why Labour had campaigned on air quality policies, such as a national framework of LEZs, yet the Conservative Party had remained quiet on air quality issues at a national level ahead of the May election.

The Mayor responded: “On the contrary, on the contrary. The conservative administration in London is leading the way on the world’s first ultra low emission zone.”

He added: “I’m not an expert on concentrations in other places in the UK. I can’t talk very easily about them. But I can tell you that the conservative agenda in London is to improve air quality.”

Norbury Manor school

The Mayor visited Norbury Manor Primary School in South London to launch the campaign, where an air quality monitor capable of measuring particulate matter PM2.5 among other pollutants was installed by Croydon borough council in the playground four months’ ago.

The air quality monitor installed at Norbury Manor Primary School by Croydon council

The air quality monitor installed in the playground at Norbury Manor Primary School by Croydon council

Commenting on Defra’s plans to streamline local air quality management reporting (see story), Mr Johnson told that he would “ensure that London has very good monitoring coverage, and that we will have enough monitors to really know whether we are meeting our targets — that’s what matter for me.”

As well as speaking to the Norbury school children, who have been learning about air quality in their lessons, he joined pupils as they tested their lung function, learned more about the monitoring station, and entered a large, inflatable globe to help demonstrate the causes of air pollution.

Asked by one pupil why cleaner cars could not be brought into London quicker, Mr Johnson responded: “It is because your mummies and daddies — they have bought cars that are very expensive, and to ask them to get new cars too soon — that is very unfair.”


Organised in partnership with Camden, Islington, Croydon, and the City of London councils, the Breathe Better Together campaign is being funded by the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund, EU’s Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQIN) and Defra’s national air quality grants programme.

Welcoming the campaign, Defra minister Dan Rogerson said: “This project is a great example of authorities working together to identify the best solution for London and I look forward to seeing the results so we can share best practice to improve air quality across the country.”

The campaign launch was also welcomed by Public Health England (PHE) regional director Dr Yvonne Doyle, who said the campaign would help Londoners take positive action to reduce exposure.

Dr Doyle said: “Air quality plays a vital role in the health and wellbeing of Londoners. The major effect of long term exposure to air pollution is on deaths from cardiorespiratory disease and it is likely that air pollution acts as a contributory factor, along with many others, including smoking and lack of physical activity.”


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