London and Paris failing to meet air pollution limits in spite of policies

Both London and Paris are failing to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide and airborne particle pollution set by the World Health Organisation, despite introducing several new policies to tackle the issue since 2005.

These are the findings of researchers from Kings College London and French air monitoring company Airparif, who have produced a paper today (March 11) in the journal Environmental Pollution, which researched two periods, 2005-2009 and 2010-2016.

The paper says that as the legal compliance approached in 2010, nitrogen dioxide in both cities was getting worse even after stricter lab tests were introduced for new diesel cars. They say this suggests that if feedback between air pollution surveillance and policymakers was better, it could have allowed for a ‘more agile response’ to tackle pollution.

According to the paper, the large decline in particle pollution from 2010 to 2016 in the two cities is due to the implementation of the Euro 5 standards on diesel cars and vans.

The paper also credits London for introducing schemes to upgrade bus fleets but blamed an increase in motorcycles since 2010 for offsetting the gains made from other vehicle types.

Dr Gary Fuller, air pollution scientist at King’s said: ‘The diesel emissions scandal had a serious impact on air pollution in Europe’s two mega-cities. Even though new cars passed ever tighter exhaust tests, many emitted much more pollution when driven on our roads.

‘This has led to chronic and widespread problems with limits for nitrogen dioxide.

‘A clear lesson here the need for better feedback to make sure that our air pollution polices remain on track.

‘There have been some successes in London and especially with the bus fleet. Although we are now heading in the right direction; we need stronger policies, such as London’s forthcoming ultra-low emission zone, to improve air pollution quickly for everyone in our cities, and we need to check that they work.’

Last month, Friends of the Earth analysed the most recent local authority annual Air Quality Status Reports submitted to the government, and produced the top 10 worst places in the country for NO2 emissions, with 8 of the top 10 locations being in London.

UK locations ranked by annual average level of NO2 (in ug/m3) – the Objective is 40ug/m3:

  1. Earls Court Station, Kensington & Chelsea, London – 129.5
  2. Junction North Circular Rd / Chartley Avenue, Brent, London – 115.39
  3. IKEA, Hut, North Circular Road, Brent, London – 102.1
  4. Neville Street (NW Tunnel entrance), Leeds – 99
  5. Fir Tree Close, Hickleton, Doncaster – 96
  6. Kensington H St/Kensington Church St, Kensington & Chelsea, London – 94.5
  7. Euston Road, Camden, London – 92.45
  8. Strand, City of Westminster, London – 92
  9. High Street, Harlesden, Brent, London – 91.83
  10. Haddon Hall Tower Bridge Road, Southwark, London – 90.79