The mayor of London has welcomed the High Court ruling that the government has broken the law by failing to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution as quickly as possible.
London mayor Sadiq Khan declared that the case, brought by environmental legal group ClientEarth, must be a “wake-up call” to government to finally take effective action to improve air quality in London and around the country.
The mayor said that it was estimated that 9,400 deaths occurred each year in London due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution, while 448 schools in London were in areas exceeding legal air quality levels.
The ruling on ClientEarth’s challenge, in which the mayor appeared as an interested party, means that the government’s existing plan for improving air quality will be quashed.
Instead, ministers will have to put in place, as quickly as possible, new measures to remove illegal levels of NO2 air pollution.
Since becoming mayor in May, the London Assembly said that Khan had begun consulting on a wide-ranging package of measures to tackle London’s air pollution problem. This has included a new T-charge (emissions surcharge) in the congestion charging zone in 2017 and potentially introducing the ultra low emission zone a year earlier in 2019, as well as expanding it up to the North/South circular.
“The High Court ruling brings sharply into focus the scale of the country’s air pollution crisis and lays the blame at the door of the government for its complacency in failing to tackle the problem quickly and credibly. In so doing, they have let down millions of people the length and breadth of the country,” said Khan.
“I am calling for the government’s revised package of measures to include funding a national diesel scrappage scheme to take the most polluting vehicles off our roads and an overhaul of vehicle excise duty to incentivise the buying of the cleanest vehicles, as well as powers to tackle non-road sources of NO2, including from construction.
“The European Union currently provides the legal framework which protects Londoners’ right to clean air and the government must also make sure Brexit isn’t used as an excuse to weaken existing standards and delay taking the bold action needed.”