Have the Mayor’s actions on air quality undermined Olympic bid?

Speaking three years before the Olympics come to London, Murad Qureshi, Labour’s environment spokesman on the London Assembly, has expressed concern that the city’s bid may have been undermined by Boris Johnson’s regressive environmental decisions.

The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation of London’s bid expressed concern about London’s "increasing levels of ozone pollution" but said that "legislation and actions now in place, such as the ‘low emission zone’ and ‘congestion charge’, are aimed at correcting that trend and ensuring all air pollutants are within World Health Organisation and EU target levels by 2010".1

Since this evaluation was made, and Boris Johnson was elected Mayor, London’s measures to tackle its poor air quality and ozone pollution have been rolled back. The Congestion Charge Zone will be halved in size and the third phase of the Low Emission Zone, which was due to prevent the most polluting vehicles from entering Greater London, has been indefinitely suspended.

Murad Qureshi, Labour’s environment spokesman on the London Assembly, said: "It’s bad enough that over 3,000 Londoners die prematurely every year because of the state of our air. The last thing we want is for this still to be an issue when the world comes here in three years time – as we saw in Beijing and Athens. If the Mayor continues along the road down which he has started, this sadly could well be the case. The Mayor should now reverse his short-sighted decision to cancel the next phase of the Low Emission Zone."

A recent London Assembly report into the city’s air quality found that it could be responsible for up to 3,500 premature deaths and 12,000 children being hospitalised for respitory failure.2 It has been reported that the Government is considering countermanding the Mayor because his actions may have undermined their fight against an EU fine of £300 million for its poor air quality.3

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Notes

1. The IOC’s evaluation of London’s bid can be found here: http://multimedia.olympic.org/pdf/en_report_946.pdf. The section on London’s air quality is on page 67/68.

2. The London Assembly’s report in the state of London’s air, Every Breath You Take, can be found here: http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/reports/environment/air-quality-report-200904.pdf

3. It was reported in April that the Government was considering over-turning the Mayor’s decision to suspend the third phase of the Low Emission Zone: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/apr/14/boris-johnson-london-air-quality