Two million Londoners – including more than 400,000 children – are living in areas which exceed legal limits for air pollution, new data published today by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, reveals.
Updates to the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory (LAEI) – which analyses air quality – show that between 2013 and 2016, under the previous Mayor, there were no significant improvements in harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in London’s air – with some areas actually getting worse.
The picture for London’s schools over the same period is similarly stark: in 2016, more than 400 schools were still in areas which exceeded legal limits for NO2. While the number of primary schools in these areas fell slightly – from 371 to 369 – the number of secondary schools affected grew from 81 to 86.
The new figures come with just one week to go until the introduction of the world-leading Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, which will see non-compliant vehicles charged to enter the zone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Since Sadiq took office and began introducing tough measures to tackle London’s toxic air, there have been significant improvements in measured pollution levels. So far this year, there has been a 57 per cent reduction in the number of hours recorded in which the city exceeded the 200ug/m3 limit for NO2, compared to the same period last year.
In the first three months of 2016, 43 monitoring sites in London recorded hours exceeding their legal limits for NO2, with 13 exceeding their annual limit (18 hours). So far in 2019, just 10 monitoring sites have recorded hours with pollution levels above the limit, while none have breached its annual limit.
A recent study by King’s College London looking at the overall rate of improvement in NO2 levels across London found that, compared with legal pollution limits, if the trend of inaction seen between 2010 and 2016 continued it would take 193 years to reach legal compliance (3).
However, further modelling undertaken for City Hall by King’s College London suggests the Mayor’s far-reaching policies would reduce this to just six years, meaning London’s air would be within legal pollution limits by 2025.
New polling reveals more than three-quarters of Londoners (80 per cent) now know some information about the ULEZ (up from 60 per cent last August). The proportion who say they don’t know about ULEZ has halved over the same period, from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, 90 per cent of drivers know something about the ULEZ scheme – even though only one in five drivers is expected to drive into the zone.
Transport for London continues to work hard to ensure as many Londoners are aware of ULEZ as possible. It has already sent 2.5 million emails, 600,000 letters to drivers who have driven within the central London Congestion Charge Zone since last October, installed more than 300 road signs at entry points to the zone and rolled out a major advertising campaign across the entire TfL network.
It has also provided advice and support to more than 6,000 fleet operators and more than 1,000 small businesses, charities and health services.
The Mayor will also launch interactive map, showing air quality across London, using a range of monitoring and modelling data, so Londoners can be better informed about conditions in their local area.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “From the very outset I have been crystal clear that I would do everything in my power to tackle London’s toxic air crisis. So far in my mayoralty, this includes cleaning up our bus and taxi fleet and establishing the largest air quality monitoring network of any major city.
“The introduction of the world’s first 24-hour seven-day-a-week Ultra Low Emission Zone next week marks a watershed moment in our fight to clean up our filthy air. The data I’ve published today gives an even clearer picture of the urgent need to take action.
“What’s more, our message to Londoners is clearly getting through – and we will continue to do all we can to support Londoners in making the transition away from older, more polluting vehicles.”