The European Commission today issued the UK with a final written warning for breaching legal standards for dangerous airborne particles, or PM10s. Greater London and Gibraltar were singled out as areas where air quality is still a danger to health. The Mayor of London recently claimed that almost 5,000 people could be dying prematurely because of the city’s poor air (1).
Labour’s environment spokesman on the London Assembly, Murad Qureshi, said: "The Mayor has rightly highlighted the deadly problem in London but rather than tackling it, his policies have actually made matters worse. He is halving the size of the congestion charge zone, has put back plans to charge polluters for driving into London and has whacked up public transport fares, pushing people back into their cars.
"It’s no great surprise that London is singled out as the bad boy when our Mayor won’t take the bold, brave action necessary to improve the air we breathe."
The UK has failed to comply with EU air quality standards for PM10s. These dangerous airborne particles are partly caused by traffic and can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death. In some parts of London one in five children suffers with asthma. The UK has one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the world.
· Boris Johnson is currently consulting on plans to scrap the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge (WEZ)
· TfL predict losing between £55m and £70m of revenue and a 15% increase in traffic if the WEZ is scrapped (2)
· The WEZ led to a decrease in motor vehicles entering the zone of 14% TfL estimated that around 30% of those previously entering the zone by car chose to walk, cycle or travel by public transport instead. There was a 12% increase in the number of people entering the zone by bicycle (3)
· Last year, the Mayor suspended the next phase of London’s Low Emission Zone. The third phase was due to come into force this October and would have meant the most polluting vans and minibuses would be charged £100 a day to drive into Greater London.
The European Commission said in a press release today:
"The UK submitted an exemption request for eight zones including the Greater London Urban Area. However, the Commission did not consider the exemption justified, as seven out of the eight zones already complied with the limit values. For the Greater London Urban Area, the Commission considered that the UK had not shown that compliance with the daily PM10 limit value would be achieved by the time the exemption period expired in 2011. The UK has recently sent a further exemption request for Greater London, which is still under assessment. However, given that zones still exceed the PM10 limit values, the Commission is sending the UK a final warning. If the UK fails to take the necessary measures to comply with the legislation, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice."
1. Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy http://www.london.gov.uk/who-runs-london/mayor/publications/environment/mayors-draft-air-quality-strategy
2. Mayoral answer to the London Assembly (15 October 2008) http://mqt.london.gov.uk/mqt/public/question.do?id=23419
3. Central London Congestion Charging: Impacts Monitoring, Sixth Annual Report, Transport for London, July 2008.
4. European Commission press release http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/687&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en