Zero emission zones, better public transport and smoking bans would lead to cleaner air in capital, Commission claims
The Mayor of London’s Air Quality Strategy for London should go ‘further and faster’ to reduce pollution in the capital, the London Heath Commission has urged.
In the Better Health for London report published this week, Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, chair of the London Health Commission, outlined what needed to be done to improve air quality in the capital.
Lord Darzi said he was ‘shocked to discover’ that 4,200 Londoners die as a direct result of air pollution every year – accounting for 7% of deaths compared to 5% in the wider UK.
To address the problem, the Commission has urged Mayor of London Boris Johnson to speed up the implementation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone as well as the development of a public transport fleet capable of zero emission operation.
This includes low emission buses, and new requirements to accelerate the uptake of zero emission black cabs and private hire vehicles.
Lord Darzi said: “As Londoners take to the streets, parks and open places to walk more, they will likely notice the quality of the city’s air. London’s air quality is the poorest in the UK and amongst the poorest in Europe. All our lives are poorer for it.
“Acting to reduce emissions is expensive; but failing to act comes at a terrible cost in lives lost and quality of life degraded. Having examined the evidence, I am compelled to conclude that London’s clinicians must also become London’s environmentalists.â€?
In addition, the London Health Commission used the report to unveil its controversial proposal to ban smoking in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, and local parks – which it has linked to promoting cleaner air in the city.
Lord Darzi added: “Just as smokers’ lungs are polluted, the lungs of our city – our parks and green spaces – are polluted by smoking. London should lead the way for Britain, and the Mayor should lead the way for London by acting to make our public spaces smoke free. Our parks and green spaces account for nearly 40% of the capital, the equivalent of 20,000 football pitches; imagine that space completely smoke free.
“The Mayor should use his byelaw powers to make Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square smoke free. It would send a powerful message for the iconic centre of our city and the political heart of our country to become smoke free. What better way to show our city’s ambition to be the healthiest major global city?â€?
The Mayor set up the London Health Commission in September 2013 to review the health of the capital, from the provision of services to what Londoners themselves can do to help make London the healthiest major global city.