Clean Air Now? Siân Berry Responds
The blog below written by Green Party candidate for the Mayor of London, Siân Berry. It’s part of a series of blogs by candidates for London Mayor. We’ve also featured blogs by Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sadiq Khan (Labour).
London’s air quality is one of the worst in Europe. Add your name to the thousands of people demanding clean air now.
The power of good ideas – Green action on air pollution
The Mayor and City Hall have a clear responsibility to make sure London is a healthy environment in which to live, work and enjoy life. Air pollution causes more than 9,500 premature deaths in London every year. Sixty years after the Clean Air Act helped put an end to the deadly smogs that came from coal fires and power stations we need a similar level of urgent action now.
Greens will stop the half-hearted efforts to clean up our air and make comprehensive plans to bring pollution below legal limits by 2020 at the latest. We will develop plans to meet this commitment whether the Government plays its part or not. The public health responsibilities of the Mayor also include promoting physical activity for daily trips with great streets for walking and cycling, making sure healthy food is widely available, supporting good mental health and wellbeing and reducing the risk of disease at all stages of our lives.
Greens in City Hall will take immediate action on polluting vehicles. We will:
• 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 will provide a strong incentive for London’s car owners either to give up their vehicles or to change from diesel to petrol, hybrid or electric cars as quickly as possible. We will invite boroughs to opt in 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 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 diesel vehicles, and for changes to Vehicle Excise Duty and the new Roads Fund to encourage reduced car ownership or a switch to low- or zero-emission vehicles. Make Longer-term, comprehensive plans to reduce traffic and pollution.
To do everything we can to reduce pollution, we also need effective planning and traffic-reduction policies. The planned Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) starting in 2020 is too small and has standards and charges for polluting vehicles that will be too slow in bringing pollution below legal limits.
• Begin consultation immediately on a scheme to replace the ULEZ that will protect all Londoners and be effective in complying with the law. It could be combined with the new Londonwide 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 and put together proposals for City Airport to be closed and replaced with a new quarter for homes and businesses, working with local authorities, businesses, smaller developers and 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 more electric vehicle charging networks for vans, car clubs and private cars in local areas in collaboration with local councils.
It’s also important to improve monitoring and health information. To this end 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 there is high pollution.
• 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.
• Help to develop and install more continuous monitoring equipment, and innovative ways of providing public displays of real-time air pollution data on the streets.
• Make sure all schools, retirement homes and day-care centres are able to develop air pollution action plans to respond to high pollution episodes.
Don’t forget that as well as the elections for Mayor on May 5th, there are also elections for the London Assembly. Green Assembly Members in City Hall have already secured cross-party support for the Low Emission Zone and other policies to keep the most polluting vehicles off our streets and consistently been the only party to promote traffic reduction as a way of reducing pollution. Greens have won seats on the London Assembly at every election and voting Green on the orange ballot paper for the Londonwide Assembly Members will help ensure more Greens are elected to provide a strong voice for Londoners.