Boris Johnson said yesterday during the smog over London “I’m urging people just to have a little balance here, I cycled this morning and it seemed perfectly fine to me”. Not surprisingly he is being criticised for failing to take the current smog episode seriously at all, this when the Prime Minster of the day David Cameroon himself complained he could not jog early in the morning because of the smog.
It has been confirmed by Defra that London is experiencing ‘Level 10’ air pollution – which is the worst possible, and as a result the Mayor’s comments are “dangerously complacent”.
Each year poor air quality kills over 4,000 Londoners, yet the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will not be introduced until after he has left City Hall in 2020. The Mayor also prioritised purchasing a few hundred of his new ‘RouteMaster’ buses, rather than retrofitting the entire fleet of over 8,000 London buses to make them less polluting.
Only today the London Ambulance Service has seen a 14% increase in people calling them with breathing problems. In 2008 Boris promised to make London the greenest city in the world. Instead, we’ve seen wasted opportunities and wasted money. Instead of retro-fitting the entire fleet of over 8,000 London buses to make them less polluting, he has bought just a few hundred new ‘RouteMasters’. Boris might be alright, but London’s’ asthmatics are suffering.
This latest smog episode should act as a wake up call to our Mayor, whilst sand blown in from the Sahara is a contributing factor, Boris has not taken decisive action to tackle local air pollution. Boris needs to take action and show real leadership on this issue. He needs to play his part in tackling our city’s silent killer which causes over 4,000 deaths a year. He should bring forward his Ultra Low Emission Zone and retro-fit the entire London bus fleet to make them less polluting.
The Mayor’s own Air Quality Strategy states that buses contribute significantly to pollution in London. During this year’s City Hall budget setting process, the Mayor was presented with a fully costed plan to establish a £25m fund to make London’s entire bus fleet less polluting and meet the Euro VI standard. This programme would have seen the fleet retrofitted by December 2015, however, the Mayor rejected this plan. By the time his Ultra Low Emission Zone is introduced in 2020, approximately 51,000 Londoners would have died as a result of air pollution since he was elected in 2008.