Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Latest Mayoral Attempt to Clean London Streets of Airborne Pollution Announced

Consultation Will Consider Pay as You Drive Schemes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has once again divided his audience with pronouncements on cleaning up traffic pollution in the City. A new report shows that whilst between 2000 and 2018 greenhouse gas emissions from homes and workplaces fell by 40 and 57% respectively, those from transport managed a lowly 7%.

This was of course despite the introduction of charges for congestion and the Low and Ultra Low Emission Zones in the period. Despite these efforts the report, which the Mayor commissioned from Element Energy, states more action is required to shift Londoners away from petrol and diesel vehicle use and towards walking and cycling, greater public transport take up and cleaner vehicles. At the moment, just two per cent of vehicles on the roads in London are electric.

Khan has never shied away from the need for measures, no matter how draconian some may consider them, to make the streets a healthier place to walk and breathe. Tightening and expanding the Emission Zones is expected to lead a 5% fall in CO2 emissions from cars and vans in the zone and a 30% cut in toxic nitrogen oxide emissions from road transport, but more needs to be done.

Monday the 24th January would have been the 18th birthday of Ella Roberta who died tragically aged nine from asthma related causes. Ella, from Lewisham, was the first person in the UK to have the phrase ‘air pollution’ cited as a cause of her demise on her death certificate. A candle lit vigil will be held in her memory on Sunday January 23 at 3:30 pm at The Bandstand, Mountfield Park, London SE6 (off Brownhill Road).

The road haulage sector is in a quandary over these matters, few sane people can argue against them, but huge investment is needed to ensure transport fleets are modernised sufficiently to reduce emissions in line with mayoral aspirations. Meanwhile the mayor argues that the number of miles being driven in the capital has increased in recent years, despite statistics showing that more than a third of car trips in London could be made in under 25 minutes by walking, and that two-thirds could be cycled in less than 20 minutes.

This of course neatly avoids commenting on the need to maintain the supply chain throughout the city, particularly highlighted in the midst of the pandemic. The Mayor’s latest observations are hardly likely to settle those nerves as he has called on Transport for London (TfL) for a consultation with a view to introducing some form of ‘pay as you go’ road mileage scheme using the latest technology.

This will almost undoubtedly lead to penalties levied on trucks and vans working in the City, no matter the essential nature of their trips. This will mean extra costs for suppliers and retailers, either because of the increased charges, or the replacement of delivery vehicles by more environmentally acceptable alternatives. The suite of other potential approaches to cleaning the street air includes:

  • Extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) even further to tackle more of the dirtiest vehicles: extending the current zone beyond the north and south circular roads to cover the whole of Greater London, using the current charge level and emissions standards.
  • Modifying the ULEZ to make it even more impactful in reducing emissions: building on the existing scheme by extending it to cover the whole of Greater London and adding a small clean air charge for all but the cleanest vehicles.
  • A ‘small’ clean air charge: a low-level daily charge across all of Greater London for all but the cleanest vehicles to nudge behaviour and reduce the number of short journeys by car.
  • Introducing a Greater London boundary charge, which would charge a small fee to non-London registered vehicles entering Greater London, responding to the increase in cars from outside London travelling into the city seen in recent years.

Sadiq Khan said all options under consideration would be subject to full equality impact assessments, with mitigations and exemptions put in place for Londoners on low incomes and with disabilities a key focus of any scheme development, continuing:

“This new report must act as a stark wake-up call for the Government on the need to provide much greater support to reduce carbon emissions in London. It’s clear the scale of the challenge means we can’t do everything alone. But I’m not willing to stand by and wait when there’s more we can do in London that could make a big difference. We simply don’t have time to waste.

”The climate emergency means we only have a small window of opportunity left to reduce carbon emissions to help save the planet, and, despite the world-leading progress we have made over the last few years, there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners.

“This is also a matter of social justice, with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest. Londoners on lower incomes are more likely to live in areas of the city most badly affected by air pollution and least likely to own a car. Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car, but they are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing.

“We have too often seen measures to tackle air pollution and the climate emergency delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London. I’m determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers, not only to protect Londoners’ health right now, but for the sake of future generations to come.

“It’s clear the cost of inaction, to our economy, to livelihoods, to the environment and to the health of Londoners, would be far greater than the cost of transitioning to net-zero and reducing toxic air pollution. That’s why I’m today beginning a conversation with Londoners, local government and businesses about the best way forward to create the green, sustainable city we all want to see.”

The nature of the task in hand means any comments which might seem to be critical have to be carefully measured, hence the observations of Logistics UK's Head of Policy - South, Natalie Chapman, who said:

“Logistics UK fully supports the Mayor for London's environmental aims and the need to take action on air quality. The sector has already made huge strides towards a Net Zero future, with 70% of HGVs currently meeting Euro 6. Today’s announcement raises concerns regarding potential additional costs to logistics businesses that are already facing recent increased charges as a result of the higher congestion charge and higher Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) costs recently introduced on London’s red routes.

”A Greater London boundary charge and further clean air charges, as proposed in the announcement, will place additional stress on industry, which already operates on small margins of between one and three per cent. Logistics UK is keen to see greater detail on the consultation proposals; any new measures introduced must be proportionate, achievable and ensure that logistics businesses can continue to deliver for the capital, its residents and its workforce.”

Photo: Ella Roberta, the first person to have air pollution on her death certificate