Mayor’s advisor Matthew Pencharz defends Boris Johnson’s air quality legacy during London Assembly grilling
Bringing forward plans for an ultra low emission zone in central London sooner than 2020 “would be a totally unreasonable thing to doâ€?, the Mayor of London’s environment deputy said today (March 9).
Taking questions from London Assembly members this afternoon, deputy London Mayor for environment and energy, Matthew Pencharz, defended Boris Johnson’s environmental record during the Conservative MP’s past eight years at City Hall.
Mr Pencharz told Assembly Members that “a lot of the things that have been said I think are not particularly fair about what has been happening hereâ€?, adding that introducing a ULEZ which will require all single decker buses to be zero emission by 2020 “is quite a big statementâ€?.
However, he was critical of suggestions that the ULEZ be brought into force sooner than 2020 and that the Zone should initially be expanded to encompass a larger area than Central London.
Mr Pencharz argued that the fact that white van drivers in Central London, for example, would in four years’ time need to be only “four or five years’ oldâ€? in order to comply with the ULEZ was a “very draconian measureâ€?.
However, should that ULEZ requirements be brought in sooner than 2020, he said there would be “a lot of angry peopleâ€? as these vehicles would then perhaps have to be as new a 18 months’ old to comply, arguing that “if you bring it [ULEZ requirements] forward, that is not a very reasonable thing to doâ€?.
And, he argued: “There is no zero emission van at scale for an average business [to afford] – the market is not yet there.â€?
Furthermore, he also said that expanding the ULEZ area as wide as the North-South circular road as soon as 2020 “is totally unreasonableâ€?.
“There is no zero emission van at scale for an average business – the market is not yet there” – Matthew Pencharz, Deputy Mayor for environment and energy
Mr Pencharz did concede, though, that widening the ULEZ area and tightening emissions standards would be a “reasonable thing to doâ€? after around 2025 and that this is something he could advise the next Mayor to do.
Earlier today, Labour’s candidate for the next London Mayor, Sadiq Khan MP, unveiled his manifesto in which he pledged to consult on both implementing sooner and expanding the current ULEZ plan (see AirQualityNews.com story).
However, he called on both the UK government and the European Union to do more to assist London in driving down air pollution as “London doesn’t have the biggest levers to actually drive the change that we needâ€?.
Speaking ahead of the Chancellor’s 2016 Budget next week (March 16), Mr Pencharz called on the government to consider a diesel car scrappage scheme for drivers and a “genuine reform to VED [car tax]â€? to encourage the move away from higher polluting vehicles.
He was also critical of EU proposals for car emissions testing across Europe from 2017 based on real-world driving: “The other thing is the European Union, which has agreed an RDE [Real Driving Emissions] package which we think is frankly disappointing.â€?
Mr Pencharz therefore explained that in order to reach legal compliance with EU air quality objectives sooner the current 2025 projection: “Clearly we need some help from other levers outside London.â€?
Elsewhere, Mr Pencharz also defended the introduction of double decker New Routemaster buses during Mr Johnson’s term in office, describing them as a “design iconâ€? which provide a “great message to the world from London that we have the cleanest bus of its classâ€?.
The New Routemaster – dubbed the Boris Bus – has come in for criticism due to the high cost of the vehicles while still only being capable of Euro 5 or Euro 6 emissions standards.
However, Mr Pencharz said: “New Routemasters are the cleanest buses of their class… and I think it is worth noting that the Mayor stood on a very clear manifesto commitment to bring these in.â€?