Summary

AIR QUALITY


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Summary

  • Air quality has improved but air pollution is still a major problem, particularly nitrous oxides (NOx), particulate matter and ozone.    According to the Environment Audit Committee (EAC), 2015 targets will not be met without additional government action.
  • The EAC reported that 4000 Londoners and 30,000 nationally died prematurely from air pollution in 2008.  It estimates everyone’s life expectancy is reduced by 7-8 months and costs the country £20bn a year.   More Londoners are dying prematurely each year than died during the 1952 ‘pea-souper’.  (EAC, 2011, GLA, 2010)
  • The law governs concentrations of pollutants in the air we breathe.   Strategies aim to limit peak and annual concentrations but the government faces EU fines for failing to comply.   Under the Localism Act 2011 the Government can pass these fines on to councils but the EAC says the government is not doing enough to help.
  • The Government disagrees and asked for more time to comply.   It blames the failure of EU vehicle emission standards to achieve NOx targets, rising bus and van activity and dieselisation and places responsibility for achieving targets on local councils.
  • Hackney (LBH, April 2002) works with other central London boroughs to manage air quality but NOx is frequently twice the legal limit.   Councils put considerable resources into monitoring and forecasting pollution and delivering action plans but …
  • …the main cause of urban air pollution is road transport emissions which are difficult for councils to control.  Power stations, other transport, agriculture, heating and industrial processes contribute but vehicle emissions are the biggest problem.
  • World Health Organisation guidance is more rigorous than EU limits but our air fails even the EU limits.
  • Big changes are needed.  We can contribute by walking, cycling and using public transport more and fossil fuelled-vehicles less.
  • We are not living within our environmental means.

 Bright sunny morning at Alexander Palace 29/09/2012 but see the pollution above.  

Photo: K Johnson


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