Greenpeace activists climb Nelson’s Column to demand action on air pollution

Publication date: 18th April 2016

Two Greenpeace activists started climbing Nelson’s Column at 4am today to demand action on air pollution. Alison Garrigan (29) and Luke Jones (30) will attempt to fit the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, towering 52 metres above Trafalgar Square, with an emergency face mask.

Earlier this morning, a separate Greenpeace team eluded security and climbed over the fence around the Houses of Parliament to put another mask on Oliver Cromwell’s statue. Famous statues of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Queen Victoria opposite Buckingham Palace and Eros at Piccadilly Circus have also been given protection against London’s dirty air by environmental activists.

In all, 17 figures will be seen wearing a mask this morning, including Thierry Henry outside Emirates Stadium and some of London’s most famous statues (1).  Alison Garrigan was one of the six women that famously reached Shard’s top in 2013.

A complete list of the statues will be updated live here

Greenpeace campaigner Areeba Hamid said:

“Monitoring shows that if these statutes were real people, many of them would often be breathing dangerous, illegal air (2) . That’s why we’ve given them face masks. Of course many millions of Londoners, including kids, are breathing that same air. Kitting everyone out with face masks is not the solution, instead we need to see real political action from the new Mayor. We need a Clean Air Zone covering a large part of the city. Whoever wins the election has to stop the talk  and start the action.”

Figures show that nearly 10,000 people die prematurely from air pollution in London every year. Greenpeace is calling for an expanded Clean Air Zone which will ensure that many more Londoners can have healthy lungs and clean air. The current proposal for an Ultra Low Emissions Zone – to come into force in 2020 – only offers protection from dangerous air to residents and commuters in zone 1.

Areeba Hamid added:

“At schools across London children are being forced to breathe illegal, dangerous air. Londoners need greener and affordable public transport, along with air pollution alerts and an efficient and adequate system to measure air quality. The next mayor should begin a consultation on a Clean Air Zone immediately after the election”.

A total of 40,000 premature deaths are attributable to air pollution across the UK.  Apart from London; Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh among others, are likely to continue to breach legal limits of air pollution until at least 2020.

Notes to the editor:

(1)    The UK and EU set legally binding limits on levels of air pollution based on World Health Organisation guidelines. One or more of these limits has been broken in London every year since they came into effect in 2005. In the first week of 2016 London used up a whole year’s quota of days in which it is allowed to breach emission standards Some areas, such as Brixton Road and Putney High Street, are over three times the legal limits for NO2.


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