No more delays on clean air

I was launching our air pollution policies today in Putney High Street with local party members and our candidate for Merton and Wandsworth, Esther Obiri-Darko

This is the place that went over the annual legal limit for the number of hours of high air pollution just eight days into the new year, and is also where local campaigners did one of the first ‘citizen science’ studies to put pressure on the Mayor to give them cleaner buses. This morning levels of nitrogen dioxide were nearly two and a half times the legal limit.

Sian Berry and Esther Obiri-Darko in PutneyBut it’s not just places like Putney that suffer – high air pollution is a problem throughout London, including in my council ward in Highgate and everywhere with high levels of traffic.  The time for half-hearted efforts on air pollution is very much past.

London has seen too many delays under Boris Johnson – including ludicrous schemes like trying to glue the pollution to the roads – and we need a new Mayor with a comprehensive plan to bring our air within legal limits as soon as possible, using every tool at our disposal. This is the only way to comply with the law and protect the health of our citizens.

Air pollution causes nearly 9,500 premature deaths in London every year, and the range of actions that I would take as Mayor to comply with air pollution laws by 2020 at the absolute latest are set out on the London Green Party website here.

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 problem that is just as urgent.

In the short term, if I’m elected Mayor, I will immediately exclude the most polluting cars, vans and lorries from central London. I will cancel road-building plans and oppose all airport expansion and – as the Green Assembly Members proposed in this year’s budget – speed up replacing diesel buses with hybrids and electric vehicles.

In the longer term, we need a truly effective new Ultra Low Emission Zone, much stronger car-free policies into the London Plan, and a new electric car charging network with at least 25,000 charging points for cleaner vehicles, including the new taxis.

As we launch these plans, Greens across the city are handing out leaflets with details of our policy, and influential campaign group Clean Air in London have given the Greens ten out of 10 for our plan to deal with air pollution – far ahead of all the other parties, who have never taken this issue seriously.

Importantly, I also believe in telling Londoners the truth about the risks, and my policies to give people more information about pollution levels are below. They include clear warnings about bad air days so people can protect their health by cutting car use and avoiding outdoor exercise, and more information on the streets too.

Sian inspecting the monitoring station at Putney High StreetPutney has a continuous monitoring station whose results are provided in real time on the London Air website, but on the High Street itself you can’t see what the readings are without checking online. We changed that today by putting the readings on placards for everyone to see, and I’ll change that permanently if I’m elected and make sure people get the information they need to avoid the worst pollution when and where they need it.

With Transport for London changing more of its advertising boards in tubes and bus stops to digital displays, we can also use these to show warnings and data to keep the public informed about local levels of pollution.

Air pollution is one of the most important problems for the next Mayor to solve, and the only way we can bring it down to levels that we can genuinely describe as ‘quality air’ is to elect a Green Mayor in May.

Our policies for monitoring and health information:

We will:

  • Ensure that air pollution is monitored and properly publicise the data so that people can better protect their health, for example by cutting car use and avoiding outdoor exercise when high pollution levels are anticipated or registered.
  • Provide support through air quality funds for local communities to carry out their own monitoring exercises, helping improving public understanding and identifying hotspots that need urgent action from Transport for London and their local authority.
  • Help to develop and install more continuous monitoring equipment together with innovative ways of providing public displays of real-time air pollution data on the streets
  • Make sure all schools, retirement homes and daycare centres are able to develop air pollution action plans to respond to high pollution episodes.