Clean Air Now? Sadiq Khan Responds
This blog below written by the Labour candidate for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. It’s part of a series of blogs by candidates for London Mayor. We’re also featuing blogs by Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sian Berry (Green Party).
London’s air quality is one of the worst in Europe. Add your name to the thousands of people demanding clean air now.
I want to be the greenest Mayor London has ever had.
I won’t be satisfied until London is one of the world’s greenest cities – one which other cities across the world look to for leadership on cleaning up our dangerously polluted air, on green energy, sustainability and on tacking climate change.
For me it’s personal. I’ve lived in London all my life. I’ve never smoked. I’m fairly fit and even managed to run the London Marathon a few years back. But in recent years I’ve been diagnosed with adult-onset asthma.
It brought home to me the scale of the challenge and that the current mayor hasn’t done enough to clean up London’s air. He inherited a city that was a leader in the field but eight years on since he took office and London’s record is mediocre at best. Unless we act now, we could face a growing public health emergency.
We all saw the research last year from King’s College London – commissioned by the GLA and TfL – that nearly 10,000 premature deaths are caused in London every year by exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulates PM2.5s. This was double the previous estimate, and very worrying.
What’s more, many pollution hotspots in the city are around schools, exposing our children to dangerously contaminated air, and putting them at greater risk of respiratory conditions like mine. That’s why, as mayor, I support moves to improve public space in London. I’ll pedestrianize Oxford Street, starting by bringing back car-free days, and possibly weekends. The goal is to turn one of the world’s most polluted streets into one of the world’s finest tree-lined shopping streets.
The Ultra-Low Emission Zone is a good start but will only cover central London. I’ll consult on extending this to more of London so we can keep the filthiest vehicles off more of the city’s streets. I’ll make sure TfL delivers the electric charging infrastructure we need to support emissions free vehicles and I’ll campaign for a diesel scrappage scheme to rid the oldest and filthiest cars, trucks and buses from the roads.
Getting more Londoners out of their cars and onto greener forms of transport is a priority. My four years fares freeze will ensure tubes, buses and trains are affordable to Londoners. I will start immediately to buy greener buses and by the end of my first term I only want London to be buying electric or hydrogen buses seeking an agreement with other major European and global cities to do the same and so encouraging manufacturers to race to the top in clean bus technology. I will also propose Clean Bus Corridors, which would put clean buses on those routes running along our most polluted roads.
We must get more people walking. This is why I will also appoint a pedestrian champion at TfL to lead on measures to make walking safer, and introduce a scheme called Cleaner Waking Routes to School – working with local councils to reduce congestion around schools.
I want to make our capital a byword for cycling. Some progress has been made under the past two mayors, but we still have a lot of work to do to protect cyclists and pedestrians. I will pursue continued investment in the infrastructure for cycling, including the next generation of Cycle Superhighways, further investment in Quietways and town centre improvement schemes. I will encourage increased cycle storage on streets in residential areas and in new office developments. I will target investment for the completion of works to tackle the capital’s most dangerous junctions, making our roads safer not just for cyclists but for everyone.
Our green spaces are crucial lungs for the city. That’s why I will strengthen protections for open spaces within the London Plan, and that’s why I will prioritise the improvement of high streets, squares and public spaces across the city. I will oppose building on our precious Green Belt and do what I can to prevent fracking.
I’ll also set up Energy for Londoners, a not-for-profit municipal energy company that will lead on clean, green energy generation. This will also deliver the huge step change in solar generation we need, putting panels on roofs across the city including public buildings and TfL stations and land. I’ll also ensure we maintain the zero carbon homes standard in the London Plan and review the city’s climate change targets so that they are in line with those agreed in Paris at the end of 2015.
We can learn much from other cities and also must recognise we can’t solve all our problems on our own. That’s why I’ll ensure London plays a leading role in the C40 group of leading world cities and I’ll campaign to remain in the EU. We cannot tackle poor air on our own, as we find out every time weather conditions lead to the wind blowing off the continent, bringing other cities pollution our way. Leaving the EU would be disastrous to Europe-wide attempts to improve air quality.
A greener future is central to my vision for London. I am determined to play a major role in creating the kind of city I want my children and their children to live in. I want to be a Mayor for all Londoners.