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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

More action needed to tackle London’s polluted air - IPPR

IPPR supports the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in his ambition to take urgent action on tackling air pollution in the capital, where the problem is particularly acute and responsible for an estimated 9,400 premature deaths every year.

In a report published today, Lethal and Illegal, IPPR says London is breaking both legal and World Health Organisation limits, mainly because of road pollution and in particular diesel vehicles. The report suggests that an expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) – which will ban the most polluting diesels from London's roads - across inner London is needed, but that Khan might ultimately have to go further and phase out diesel cars altogether.

The report also calls on central government and the EU to support the Mayor's ambitions. To really get to grips with invisible pollutants (such as NO2 and PM2.5) will require support from both national and EU policy makers, with changes to Vehicle Exercise Duty (VED) and EU regulation suggested.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, researcher at IPPR and co-author of the report said:

“London's air is both lethal and illegal. This is a public health crisis and it should be ignored no longer. As such, we welcome the new Mayor's ongoing consultation on measures to address pollution in the capital. He should be ambitious going forward - only bold action will make the capital's air safe to breathe again.

“Indeed, IPPR's analysis suggests he will ultimately need to completely phase out diesel cars and buses in order to reach legal compliance. However, he cannot achieve this alone. National government has so far shirked its duty on this issue. They must now pitch in to help save lives.”

IPPR is conscious of the possible impact on businesses, given that the light goods vehicle fleet went from 51 percent diesel in 1994 to 96 percent in 2014.

Harry Quilter-Pinner added:

“Given the UK is now facing the possibility of a sustained stagnation or recession this regulation should be much less stringent on vans than cars and buses as punitive charges could have a negative impact on small businesses and economic growth. However, over time, as new electric and hybrid vans come on the market, this subsidy could be slowly reversed.”

There is also a risk that Brexit weakens the pressure on policy making on air pollution so the IPPR also supports calls for a new Clean Air Act to further embed air quality standards.

Alan Andrews, lawyer for ClientEarth, which is taking the government to court over air pollution, said:

"This report should send a clear message to the UK government that an ambitious and bold Clean Air Act is needed for the whole country. It should phase out diesel across the country and accelerate the shift to zero emission transport. This would help our cities clean up their air and achieve legal limits as soon as possible. The new government must now step up and deal with this public health crisis so that the whole country can breathe cleaner air.”

London is the only area in the UK that is currently forecast to not reach compliance on air pollution by 2025 or beyond. The incoming Mayor inherits two main policies that help to reduce pollution: the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) and the planned Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“Protecting Londoners from our toxic filthy air is an issue of life and death. In our city nearly 10,000 Londoners die every year from exposure to pollution - which is simply unacceptable. Rather than turn a blind eye to this growing health crisis it is high time ministers faced up to their responsibilities.

“This important report is published whilst I’m conducting a major public consultation on my plans to crack down on the most polluting vehicles and to bring in hard-hitting new measures to improve our cities air. Nearly 11,000 Londoners have taken part so far but I need even more views and ideas to help me make a dramatic difference to the scandalous toxic pollution in our city.”

The issue is important to Londoners. Polling of 1,000 residents carried out by Greenpeace, which contributed to the report, shows both car owners and non-car-owners are concerned about the air they breathe and support the Mayor’s new plans. The findings show:

• 62% of London residents support a Clean Air Zone;
• 51% are extremely concerned or very concerned about air pollution, with a further 35% fairly concerned;
• 42% of respondents say they have felt negative health symptoms because of air pollution.

Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Barbara Stoll, said:

“The writing’s on the wall for diesel. We need vital leadership from the Government in phasing out diesel cars over the coming years, to reduce the number of early deaths owing to poor air quality. Air pollution is now a public health emergency and children are on the front line. Sadiq Khan is stepping up to the challenge, but London can’t stand alone in this fight. We need urgent action from Theresa May and her new team to help clean up the car industry who’ve got away with polluting our streets for too long and help people make the switch.”


Sarah Horner,, 07584 604 607
Lester Holloway,, 07585 772 633

Notes to Editors:

The new report (Lethal and Illegal: London's Air Pollution Crisis) is available here:

The Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) operates across the whole of Greater London and was the first such scheme in the world. It began in January 2012 and operates 24 hours a day levying a charge on the most polluting vehicles.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is currently due to come into force in September 2020. It will cover the current congestion charge zone. The Mayor of London has proposed bringing that forward to 2019 and by 2020 expanding it across the whole of Inner London, up to the North-South Circular roads.

The Mayor’s Clean Air consultation (the first stage) is running until the end of July 2016. To view the consultation visit Later stages will focus on more detailed assessment around the £10 Emissions Surcharge (‘T-Charge’) and ULEZ.