diesel petrol cars air pollution

Mayors call for £1.5bn fund to tackle air pollution

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has joined forces with other city leaders to call for government funding to remove heavily polluting vehicles from UK streets and improve air quality.

Khan and other members of UK100 – a country-wide network of local government leaders who have pledged to help shift to 100 per cent clean energy by 2050 – proposed the fund in a call coinciding with the Clean Air Summit at London's Tate Modern.

According to UK100, much of the funding would go towards credit for citizens driving highly polluting cars, vans and minibuses – particularly older diesel models – who were willing to switch to ultra-low emission vehicles, as well as for incentives for cheaper public transport, bicycles and “car clubs”. Half of the fund should be ring-fenced to help private citizens (with priority for those on low incomes) to switch to cleaner transport, UK100 suggested.

The group also called for funding to help cities roll out low emission bus zones by upgrading existing vehicles, and beginning a shift towards electric buses.

“Air pollution is a national health crisis,” said Polly Billington, director of UK100. “Government should work in partnership with local leaders by providing new powers and adequate funding: that will make a real difference to drive urgent and effective action.”

“Many councils and mayors are acting, but an extra £1.5bn is needed to support people and businesses to switch from older polluting vehicles into low emission transport, cycling and walking so we can all love clean air,” she said. “We also need a new clean air law including tougher, legally binding WHO air pollution limits and an independent watchdog that will hold government to account.”

In January, the UK government unveiled its Clean Air Strategy, which it predicted could bring about £1.7bn in year-on-year savings by 2020, rising to £5.3bn year-on-year from 2030.

The government strategy proposed progressively cutting public exposure to particulate matter pollution to meet WHO guidelines, as well as improving public access to air quality monitoring and reporting the impacts of air pollution on natural habitats annually. Also in January, the Mayor of London decried London air pollution as a “public health emergency” and launched a new “Ultra Low Emission Zone”, which tightened existing exhaust emission standards for vehicles travelling in central London.

The Clean Air Summit is attended by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, and NHS England CEO Simon Stevens, who will call on vehicle manufacturers to work towards upgrading NHS ambulances to make them more environmentally friendly.

“Tackling air pollution needs strong collective action,” said Gove. “I’m keen to work constructively with local government leaders in developing their plans and considering what further action is required ahead of the Spending Review.”

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