Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s measures to tackle poor air quality in the city will particularly benefit Londoners living in the most deprived areas of the capital, research has revealed.
The report, commissioned by City Hall and carried out by air quality and climate change emissions consultants Aether, shows that Khan’s measures, including the introduction of an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) this April, will improve air quality and reduce inequality associated with it between the city’s boroughs.
Currently, residents living in the most deprived areas of London are subject to around a quarter more NO2 pollution on average than those living in the least deprived areas. Under Khan’s plans, this gap in exposure would reduce by 72% by 2030.
Mayor Khan said: ‘Improving London’s air quality is a social justice issue as well as a public health matter, given it is certain communities which are affected by filthy air the most.
‘Today’s report shows that some of the poorest Londoners will benefit the most from the bold measures we are taking to tackle London’s filthy air.’
Aether’s report specifically outlines how Khan’s air quality measures will likely benefit underprivileged groups, such as children from the poorest backgrounds and ethnic minorities.
It is predicted that as a result of the ULEZ and its accompanying measures, only five primary and high schools in the capital will be exposed to illegally high NO2 pollution levels by 2020, down from 485 in 2013. This figure will decrease further to no schools at all by 2025.
The difference in exposure between areas of London where people of mixed or multiple ethnic groups are most likely to live – areas more likely to have high NO2 levels in 2013 – and areas where they are less frequently resident is also expected to reduce by 85%.
‘By taking tough action, we can ensure that within six years the most deprived schools will be no more likely to have higher exposure to NO2 pollution than the least deprived schools,’ Khan added.
‘It cannot be right that your background and where you live determines the quality of the air you breathe and that is exactly why measures like the Ultra Low Emission Zone are so vital.’
While the report shows that Khan’s policies as part of the London Environment Strategy will have a significant positive impact on NO2 levels, these improvements are less clear when it comes to levels of particulate matter such as PM2.5.
According to Aether’s research, all Londoners will continue to live in areas exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on PM2.5 in 2030 – showing that there is still work to be done.
Katie King, director of Aether, said: ‘This builds on earlier analysis undertaken by Aether and shows that the link between deprivation and poor air quality can be substantially reduced through positive action.
‘The very mixed social structure of London complicates this type of analysis but the overall pattern of both improvement and a reduction in inequality can be clearly seen. However, there is clearly more to do if the WHO Guideline Values for particulate matter are to be achieved across the capital.’
The findings of the report were welcomed by scientists and charities alike, who praised the positive difference the ULEZ will make on the quality of Londoners’ lives.
Experts are now calling upon authorities to heed the lessons learned from London’s example and implement equivalent measures across the UK.
Professor Stephen T Holgate, FMedSci said: ‘This report indicates that the action being led by the Mayor of London will make a real difference to people’s lives in the capital. It is vital that that the lessons coming from London are replicated across the country.
‘Action that improves the air quality helps address the fundamental health inequities that exists in the UK, and the findings that highlight the potential improvements outside schools are particularly noteworthy.’
Earlier this week, Khan urged motorists to check whether their vehicles comply with new emissions standards ahead of the April implementation of the ULEZ, which will replace the current Toxicity Charge in London’s current Congestion Charge zone.
Vehicles that do not meet these standards will have to pay a daily charge for travelling within the zone – £12.50 for cars, vans and motorcycles and £100 for buses, coaches and lorries.
With the government set to table new clean air legislation later this year, Khan is now lobbying for more regulatory powers to help London mayors reduce levels of PM2.5. Powers being sought by City Hall include ULEZ-style powers for construction equipment and powers to address emissions from buildings.