#London 94 per cent reduction in number of Londoners living in areas exceeding legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2): Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan

Channel 1 Los Angeles

10/4/2020 London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I was elected on a mandate to deliver hard-hitting measures to tackle our toxic air crisis. Today’s report confirms the transformative impact that my policies have had in just four years. I’m pleased that Londoners are breathing cleaner air, that we’re saving the NHS billions of pounds and preventing over a million hospital admissions.

There are two main air pollutants of concern in London, based on their impact on human health: nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5). Poor air quality stunts the growth of children’s lungs and worsens chronic illness, such as asthma, lung and heart disease.

While significant progress has been made, with a substantial reduction in the number of Londoners living in areas exceeding legal limits for NO2, tens of thousands of Londoners still breathe illegally polluted air and 99 per cent of Londoners live in areas exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended guidelines for PM2.5, which are much tighter than the legal standards. Research shows that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be deprived Londoners and from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. There is also emerging evidence linking air pollution with an increased vulnerability to the most severe impacts of COVID-19.

The report – which includes new data from the Environmental Research Group now at Imperial College London – reveals that the number of state primary and secondary schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution limits (NO2) has fallen from 455 in 2016 to only 14 in 2019 – a huge reduction of 97 per cent. 

There is still much more work to do before London meets legal pollution limits and Londoners breathe clean air. 24 per cent of roads in inner London still exceed the legal limits for NO2. For dangerous particles (PM2.5) the challenge is greater still with only one per cent of London meeting WHO recommended limits. This underlines the need to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North and South Circular roads in 2021 as 3.8 million people live within the expanded ULEZ zone. 

The success of the existing central London ULEZ and other action taken by the Mayor gives confidence that expansion of the ULEZ will help deliver wider benefits for London, including saving the NHS around £5 billion and preventing more than one million hospital admissions over the next 30 years.

In London, the world’s first 24 hour Ultra Low Emission Zone has contributed to a reduction of 44 per cent in roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the central London ULEZ zone*. There are now 44,100 fewer polluting vehicles being driven in the central zone every day with 79 per cent of vehicles in the zone now meeting the ULEZ emissions standards – up from 39 per cent in February 2017**. CO2 emissions in the central ULEZ zone are also now estimated to have reduced by 12,300 tonnes, a reduction of six per cent, compared to a scenario with no ULEZ in place.

The fact that 99 per cent of London does not meet WHO recommended limits adds to the growing evidence and cross-party consensus that these limits should be included in the Environment Bill as a legally binding target to be met by 2030. This is needed for the protection of people’s health and research from the CBI has showed that cleaner air could boost the economy by £1.6 billion. This means getting the right air quality standards adopted in the Environment Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our cities and economies to be greener, fairer, and more sustainable. Research previously published by City Hall shows achieving these standards is possible if the Government gives the Mayor the additional powers he has consistently lobbied for.

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