Think tank launches London air quality policy study

A leading UK think tank has joined forces with air quality experts at King’s College London to produce a ‘ground breaking’ new study into potential policies to improve air quality in London.

The project aims to

The project aims to identify what additional steps to improve London’s air quality

Independent think tank and charity Policy Exchange will carry out the study in partnership with KCL’s Environmental Research Group over the “next few months”, before producing reports in September and December 2015.

According to Policy Exchange, the aim of the study is to “identify what additional steps are required in order for London to meet legal air quality limits”. It comes as the government drafts a new air quality plan to meet EU limits for nitrogen dioxide, following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.

As part of the study, KCL will provide independent estimates of likely air pollution levels up to 2025 under a range of policy scenarios, while also calculating the health impacts associated with air pollution and investigating the link between air pollution and wider deprivation in the capital.

The work will build on a previous report put together by Policy Exchange in July 2012 called ‘Something in the Air: The Forgotten crisis of Britain’s poor air quality’, which made a number of policy recommendations, including a network of low emission zones, Vehicle Excise Duty surcharges for diesel vehicles and greater investment in raising public awareness.

In December 2013, the think tank also published a summary report of roundtable discussions over boosting public awareness of air quality in London (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Richard Howard, head of environment and energy at Policy Exchange, said: “Air pollution causes the premature death of thousands of Londoners each year. The Mayor is taking steps to improve air quality, for example through the introduction of an Ultra Low Emissions Zone, but we still don’t fully understand the impact of planned policies, or whether they will be sufficient to tackle air pollution.

“Our study will identify and compare possible solutions to improving air quality in London, for example, shifting towards low emission buses and taxis.”

Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health and director of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London said: “Solving London’s air pollution problems is not going to be easy but this research will help clarify the range of policy options available as well as their likely impacts on improving air quality. With this information available in the public domain it will facilitate an open, wide ranging discussion, about the best way forward.”

Funding

Independent charitable foundation Trust for London has granted £79,000 towards the research, which is also being supported by the Liebrich Foundation and the City of London Corporation.

Mubin Haq, director of policy and grants at Trust for London, said:

Each Londoner loses on average nine months of their life as a result of the dirty air we breathe. It affects all Londoners but particularly the poorest. Children living in the worst streets in the capital for air quality are nearly 50% more likely to be eligible for free school meals than the London average.”

“Whether the proposed measures, including the Mayor’s ultra low emission zone are sufficient, even if London’s population did not grow, is unclear. But with an increase of around one million people over the next decade, the changes needed require a new scale and urgency. Sixty years ago the Clean Air Act revolutionised how we dealt with dirty air because 4,000 Londoners died in the Great Smog of 1952. With a similar number of deaths each year in the capital because the air isn’t clean enough, we are supporting this research to assess what action will make a difference.”

Wendy Mead, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s environment committee, said:As the authority for the capital’s business district and a major London public services provider, we strongly support pollution reduction plans. This study will help policymakers to gain a greater understanding the impact of the reform proposals currently on the table, and the type of action that will be required if we are to meet the air quality limit values in the shortest possible time.”