The time for half-hearted efforts on air pollution is past, says Sian Berry
14 March 2016
London needs a comprehensive plan to bring its air within legal limits as soon as possible, using every tool at our disposal, the Green Party mayoral candidate says today.
With air pollution estimated to cause more than 9,500 premature deaths in London every year, Sian Berry lists a wide range of actions that she would carry out as Mayor to comply with air pollution laws by 2020 at the absolute latest.
Immediate measures include enforcement of the existing ban on idling for parked vehicles, a higher congestion charge for all but the cleanest vehicles in Central London, and accelerating the programme of replacing diesel buses with hybrids and electric vehicles.
In the longer term, she will create a much larger Ultra Low Emission Zone, write much stronger car-free policies into the London Plan, commission a cleaner version of the ‘New Bus for London’ and expand the electric car charging network to create 25,000 charging points.
“Sixty years after the Clean Air Act helped put an end to the deadly smogs that came from coal fires and power stations, we are now faced with a comparable problem,” she says.
“The time for half-hearted efforts to clean up our polluted air and ensure compliance with existing laws is past. If I’m elected Mayor I will immediately exclude the most polluting cars, vans and lorries from central London, and speed up the switchover to make all new buses and taxis zero-emission. I will cancel road-building plans and oppose all airport expansion.
“I also believe in telling Londoners the truth, and I will provide warnings about bad air days so people can protect their health by cutting car use and avoiding outdoor exercise.
“In the longer term we need an effective new Ultra Low Emission Zone to keep polluting diesel vehicles out of London, along with fair charges on motoring to reduce traffic levels. That’s the only way we can bring pollution down to levels that we can genuinely describe as ‘quality air’.”
The full details of her policies are:
- Tighten up the standards on the current Londonwide Low Emission Zone for vans and make sure they are properly enforced through vehicle checks, with enforcement of the existing ban on idling for parked vehicles.
- Introduce a higher congestion charge for all but the cleanest vehicles in central London, to create a Very Low Emission Zone. This will ensure that where drivers have a choice of vehicle they never bring polluting cars into London and provide a strong incentive for London’s car owners either to give up their vehicles or to change to petrol or hybrid cars as quickly as possible. We will invite boroughs to opt in some or all of their area to expand this zone into illegally polluted parts of inner and outer London.
- Accelerate the programme of replacing diesel buses with hybrids and electric vehicles, ensuring the entire fleet is moved to these technologies by 2020 at the latest and that the Ultra Low Emission Zone can be extended to all of London without affecting bus services.
- Maintain and extend scrappage grants and loan schemes for black cab drivers so that all their vehicles are zero-emissions capable by 2018, ensuring there is a suitable charging infrastructure for them to run on electric power in all areas of inner London at least.
- Join car owners and those affected by high air pollution in bringing legal action against car makers for cheating on their emissions tests and misleading all of us about the pace of change in the pollution caused by our vehicles.
- Begin consultation immediately on introducing emergency traffic reduction measures to protect Londoners from the worst air pollution days we currently experience.
- Lobby government for a scrappage scheme for all diesel vehicles, and changes to Vehicle Excise Duty and the new Roads Fund to encourage Londoners to give up car ownership by switching to walking, cycling, public transport, car clubs or at least low- or zero-emission vehicles.
Longer term plans:
- Begin consultation immediately on a scheme to replace the ULEZ that will cover all of London and be effective in complying with the law. This could be combined with the new traffic demand management scheme we will develop to replace the Congestion Charge.
- Put much stronger car-free housing policies in the London Plan to support the trend for lower car ownership in both inner and outer London. This will be supported by our transport policies to improve public transport and make living without a car easier in all parts of our city.
- Ensure all planning applications are air quality neutral, requiring new developments to reduce air pollution in the most heavily polluted areas.
- Oppose all road and airport expansion in the South East and London, as well as putting together proposals for City Airport to be closed and replaced with a new city quarter for homes and businesses, working with local authorities, businesses, developers, large and small, along with academic and cultural institutions.
- Revisit plans for the ‘New Bus for London’ to explore a number of newer, more accessible, higher capacity and cleaner versions of the new design, more suitable for Londoners’ varied needs.
- Ensure the electric car charging network is properly maintained and funded and aim to expand it to provide 25,000 charging points across London.
- Develop further electric vehicle charging networks for vans, car clubs and private cars in local areas in collaboration with local councils.
NB Sian will reveal plans to promote walking and cycling in her forthcoming People-Friendly Streets manifesto. This will complement the public transport policies she has already announced – flattening the fare zones, making travelcards fairer for part-timers and allowing interchange between different modes of public transport at no extra cost – which are also designed to reduce private car dependency.
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