The Houses of Parliament shrouded in fog

London Mayor ponders ban for heavily polluting cars

Image credit: George Tsiagalakis

London could follow the example of Paris and ban the most polluting diesel cars from its streets in the future or restrict their usage on days with the highest pollution concentrations.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told ITV he wouldn’t rule out any measure to tackle the city’s toxic air crisis. Last week, Khan announced a £10 toxicity charge would be introduced in central London from October this year to discourage drivers of vehicles not meeting the Euro 4 emission norm from using the cars in the city.

However, Khan called on the government to facilitate the move away from polluting diesel by introducing a scrappage programme that would help the less affluent businesses to switch to cleaner vehicles without suffering financially.

“I'm saying to the Government, you need to introduce a national diesel scrappage fund to help people, especially the poorest families, businessmen and women with vans to move from diesel to cleaner forms of transport,” Khan said. “Some people need to drive a van, need to drive a minibus, need to drive a car, they've got to help me.”

When asked whether he would consider banning some of the most polluting diesel vehicles from the streets of London or restricting their use during the worst air pollution spells, Khan said that no measure is ‘off the table’ when it comes to clearing up the city’s air.

Last week, the European Commission issued a final warning to the UK for repeatedly breaching air pollution limits. The Commission threatens to take the UK to the European Court of Justice, if it fails to address excessive nitrogen oxide levels in the atmosphere. London saw the annual limit for nitrogen oxide breached within the first week of 2017.

“We need a clean air act, fit for purpose for the 21st century. Half of emissions come from road, the other half come from construction, housing and the river,” Khan said. “The Government's got to step up to the plate.”

According to Khan, the situation in London is worsened by the popularity of wood burning stoves that people use especially during the coldest periods.

“I issued the first ever very high air pollution alert a few weeks ago and the experts say one of the reasons was during that particular weekend lots of those stoves were being used,” Khan said.

“We've got to work with manufacturers to make sure the right sorts of stuff are being burnt in these stoves, but you know one thing by itself won't be enough, that's why the Government has got to help me and cities around the country to address this massive issue.”

Up to 9,000 people in the capital die each year of health conditions triggered or worsened by air pollution.

Earlier this year, the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo banned diesel cars registered before 2000 from the streets of the French capital. Hidalgo opted for the radical measure after restricting car usage to alternate days during worst air pollution spells failed to deliver results.

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