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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Sadiq Khan should be radical to cut deadly air pollution – IPPR

IPPR is urging the London Mayor to be bold in his efforts to save lives by cutting the capital’s lethal and illegal air pollution levels.

Our call comes as Sadiq Khan is expected to announce a consultation which could lead to a bold and new air quality policy. The Mayor is believed to be considering a new ‘toxic’ charge on cars in central London and to expand the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to cover everywhere inside the North and South Circular roads.

IPPR believes that if Sadiq Khan is to make progress in slashing the estimated 9,400 pollution-related premature deaths of Londoners every year, the Mayor should:

  • Consult on a possible expansion of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to cover the area inside the North and South Circular roads, with a view to the progressive phasing out of diesel cars;
  • Increase efforts to make all London buses hybrid or fully electric in the coming years;
  • Boost car-sharing initiatives;
  • Introduce tighter regulations on polluting lorries.
  • On the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Clean Air Act, IPPR believes that only radical action of this order can solve the growing health crisis caused by London’s dirty air.

The Mayor’s proposal to consult on a new Clean Air Zone which would span the whole of inner London and would include a new emissions charge in central London and regulation to ban old diesel cars from the whole of inner London by 2019, is a huge step in the right direction (and is based on policies recommended by IPPR’s recent Global Green City report).

Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR Research Fellow, said:

“London’s air is a stealth killer responsible for increasing rates of bronchitis, asthma, strokes, cancer and heart disease. It causes more deaths than alcohol and obesity.

“It is encouraging that Sadiq Khan recognises the seriousness of the problem and wants to take action. The Mayor’s words have gone much further than his predecessor managed in eight years.

“The crucial test will be how radical the action to back this up will be. Lack of action on air pollution, at a national and international level, are all the more reason why London must now set an example and take the lead.

“This needs to be done in the context of 'Brexit' which risks a reduction in the pressure on the government to act on the UK's toxic air. Without the creation of a new Clean Air Act to replace EU regulation, the UK's air pollution laws risk becoming diluted and fossilised.”

IPPR - in partnership with Greenpeace, ClientEarth and Kings College London – is undertaking a significant piece of new research to explore how the Mayor might design his new air pollution policy to save as many lives as possible.

Our four organisations have come together to launch an interim paper in London City Hall on Monday 18th July, at 5pm. Val Shawcross, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, is due to speak at the event.

Barbara Stoll, Greenpeace campaigner, said:

“The Clean Air Act of 60 years ago was a huge leap forward in the battle against air pollution - now we need something as bold and ambitious to stop thousands of people dying from toxic air. A large clean air zone where the most polluting cars are gradually phased out is the most practical and effective way to clean up London's air.

“Taking the dirtiest vehicles off the road will save lives, encourage car manufacturers to step up their game, and make it easier for drivers to make less polluting choices. If these proposals are passed then London will show national and international leadership in tackling the scourge of air pollution.”

Bold action to tackle air pollution should be matched by a major shift towards electric vehicles, walking, cycling and public transport. However, public policy will require cultural change away from dependence on cars, especially for avoidable a new scrappage scheme for older diesel cars, temporarily discounting public transport for people on low incomes, and finding some way of softening the blow for small businesses.


Sarah Horner,, 07584 604 607
Lester Holloway,, 07525 413 139

Notes to Editors:

1. IPPR’s report ‘A Global Green City’ recommended that the Mayor should assess the feasibility of an expanded road-pricing scheme that simultaneously tackles air pollution, congestion and CO2 emissions, and raises revenue for public transport, cycling and walking. See:

2. IPPR, Greenpeace, ClientEarth and Kings College London will be hosting an event at London City Hall on Monday 18th July, at 5pm, to launch an interim report on air pollution in the capital, called ‘Lethal and Illegal: London’s Air Pollution Crisis’. This is due to be followed up in September with a final report and recommendations. Event details can be found here:

3. Sadiq Khan is quoted talking about his plans for tackling air pollution here:

4. The Clean Air Act 1956 was introduced after a poisonous smog settled over London’s streets in December 1952.

5. A Clean Air Zone is a broad term for a zone where policy makers put in place a range of policies to address air pollution. This would usually include some form of regulation, road pricing and investment in public transport.

6. The Ultra Low Emissions Zone is a component part of a Clean Air Zone. It is a form of regulation which bans the most polluting cars (older diesels) from entering the zones and fines them if they do so.

7. Ideally, local action by the Mayor would be complemented by policy at the national level, as around three-quarters of PM emissions and a fifth of NOx emissions come from outside the capital. A good first step would be to reverse the incentives to buy diesel which have been embedded in the UK’s vehicle exercise duty (VED) regime since the late 90’s, when promoting diesel was seen as way of achieving new carbon targets introduced by the Kyoto Agreement.