A new charge of £10 pounds per vehicle entering London and creating an ultra-low emission zone are among measures mayor Sadiq Khan wants to implement soon to combat London’s increasingly toxic air, which causes nearly 10,000 deaths a year.
The £10 emissions surcharge will be in addition to the £11.50 “congestion charge” already levied on vehicles entering central London. The government last week lost a case in which the court ruled that it had broken the law by failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.
Khan, who said tackling pollution in London was one of his first priorities, now wants the government to “get a grip and stop passing the buck on killer toxic air”. He wants the government to deliver on a national diesel scrappage scheme to tackle harmful emissions.
Proposing what is billed as the toughest crackdown on polluting vehicles by any major city in the world, Khan said: “After years of failure we now need the government to get a grip and face up to their responsibilities rather than pass the buck to me and boroughs. Let’s be clear, filthy air is causing 9,400 deaths every year in London alone. And that's before you look at all the other health problems caused to Londoners.
“We need action now to protect Londoners and people all across the UK from breathing in toxic fumes. The government has been seriously complacent about this health emergency for the last six years and now is the time for them to stop gambling with our health and show real leadership.”
In a letter to environment secretary Andrea Leadsom, Khan called for urgent action, including a 21st century “Clean Air Act” to provide a legally enforceable right to clean air and reforms to Vehicle Excise Duty that continues to make the purchase of diesel cars more attractive.
The mayor’s office believes the Theresa May government must now accept that a third runway at Heathrow is not compatible with the objective of achieving – and sustaining – legal compliance and reducing exposure to toxic air.
Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “We need further and faster action to improve air quality. Over 9,000 early deaths in London every year are attributable to air pollution.
"The mayor has made a good start in tackling the problem in London but we need central government to make this an urgent priority. The government must commit to a new Clean Air Act to restrict the most polluting vehicles and bring emissions down to safe levels.”