The APPG on Air Pollution this week held a joint event with Greenpeace and IPPR to launch an timely new IPPR-led report on air quality in London.
Matthew Pennycook MP, the APPG’s chair, gave a keynote address to an audience that represented a cross-section of the air pollution prevention community held at the Institute for Mechanical Engineers. In his speech, Mr Pennycook compared the so-called ‘pea soup’ smog that London experienced in the 1950s to the less visible but equally deadly NOx and PM challenges of today and called for action from the government to see the phenomenon as it truly is – a public health crisis.
Mr Pennycook went on to say that the huge social and economic costs that this invisible threat presents to British cities means that nothing short of a new Clean Air Act could solve the problem. The need for a Clean Air Act, he said, made the work of an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution more important than ever.
Mr Pennycook’s speech was book-ended by addresses by Shirley Rodriguez, the Deputy Mayor of London for the Environment and Energy, and Laurie Laybourn-Langton who presented the key messages of IPPR’s report titled ‘Lethal and illegal: London’s air pollution crisis‘.
The report, authored by IPPR with support from Greenpeace and Kings College London, emphasised that London was well over its legal limit for substances that contribute to poor air quality as well as the human cost of the incentivised consumption of diesel vehicles. Indeed, the report finds that 96 percent of light goods vehicles were diesel in 2014, for example. Strikingly, it suggests that NO2 levels in London are comparable with notoriously polluted cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.
In terms of recommendations to policy makers, the report calls for a fairly radical programme to arrest and decrease air pollution in London. At the European level, the report calls for tougher standards and a ‘real world’ testing regime. Nationally, Lethal and illegal makes the case for VED to be devolved to the regional level and for a diesel scrappage scheme for older vehicles. In London, the report contends that there is a need to expand the ULEZ and tightening the standard for compliance to all diesels, tightening standards in the entire Low Emission Zone with the aim of phasing out diesel buses and taxis altogether and introducing new policies to encourage sustainable transport such as walking and cycling.