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

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. This follows comments from Professor Frank Kelly of the Kings College Environment Research Group indicating that London may have to ban cars and reschedule events during the 2012 Games to provide good conditions for athletes.

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".

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 delayed by two years.

Murad Qureshi, Labour’s environment spokesman on the London Assembly, said: "It is 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 2012, 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."

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 respiratory failure. 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.

Notes  

Murad Qureshi is Labour’s environment spokesman on the London Assembly and Chair of the Assembly’s Environment Committee.

Professor Kelly made his comments in an interview on November 11th.

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

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