London, increasing pressure on Mayor to ban diesel vehicles

Activists call on London mayor Sadiq Khan to ban diesel vehicles from the capital by 2025, amongst mounting evidence that they’re a serious health risk.

Hundreds of doctors, health professionals and medical students launched Doctors Against Diesel, a campaign calling for London mayor Sadiq Khan to phase out diesel vehicles in the city by 2025, on the 10th of December. The movement started shortly after the mayors of four major global cities – Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens – announced they will stop using diesel-fuelled cars and trucks by the middle of the next decade in order to improve air quality.

What’s so bad about diesel?

Originally promoted because it releases fewer CO2 emissions compared to petrol, the use of diesel has come under increased scrutiny over the past few years due to its negative impact on air quality and health. Diesel vehicles contribute to air pollution through the production of particulate matter (PM), which can penetrate the lungs and cause cardiovascular diseases and premature death. It also produces nitrogen oxides (NO2), responsible for respiratory problems.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 3 million people die every year due to ambient air pollution and, as of 2014, 92 per cent of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds WHO guidelines.

London air pollution: mounting evidence and recognition

Even though diesel vehicles aren’t single-handedly responsible for the city’s pollution, a recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Greenpeace and King’s College London reveals that they’re emitting 40 per cent of London’s total PM and NO2 emissions.

The campaign couldn’t be more topical, after air quality alerts were recently issued for the first time in some of London’s most polluted areas, including the highly popular Oxford Street and Marylebone Road. On this occasion Sadiq Khan, who made tackling air pollution a key priority during his election campaign, said: “Londoners need to know when the city is suffering from high pollution levels so they can take any necessary appropriate measures to protect themselves from poor air quality. This is particularly crucial for Londoners who are vulnerable, such as asthma sufferers.”

smog london
Smog in central London © Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

How Sadiq Khan is tackling pollution

The London mayor has already outlined a series of proposals for tackling this mounting challenge and cleaning up the city’s air, including the expansion to the planned Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London. This is an area where all cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will need to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel.

Khan has been extremely active and vocal in tackling air pollution and has stressed that the central government must “get a grip” on this matter, backing London air pollution reduction plans and rolling them out nationwide, in order for them to work effectively.

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