Cities of the Future sat down with Matthew Pencharz, Deputy Mayor for Environment & Energy for the Greater London Authority (GLA), during the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.
We asked Mr. Pencharz his views about diesel in the city in light of the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal.
“The VW scandal has focused attention on a problem we hardly knew about, and it has raised to the top the public policy of failure of dieselization across the European Union, and the UK too, combined with the spectacular failure of the Euro engine standards,” he said. “[The scandal] has focused our minds on the fact that we need to accelerate the way out of diesel.”
About diesel in the city he said, “I don’t believe that for the urban setting, for light vehicles, diesel is the right thing,” He added, “I don’t think it is the right thing if you are an urban driver, stopping-starting in traffic all day, not going very far, not zipping along at 50 mph on the motorway. [I think] diesel is not the right technology.”
Pencharz said that London’s new Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, scheduled to take effect in 2020, will help in that direction. “We have Europe’s largest low-emissions zone, and the mayor has announced the ultra-low emissions zone…. All the single-deck buses entering [the zone will] have to be zero-emission, and all double-decker buses need to be Euro-6 hybrid buses. And all cars in London need to be Euro-6 by 2020.”
“This is already creating an effect on the bus companies operating in London,” he said, mentioning that many bus companies are already sourcing zero-emissions vehicles as they expect the units to be in service for more than five years, so the ones they purchase now need to comply with the new regulations in 2020.
Pencharz also blamed the EU Commission for its failure to enforce the emission limits. “The conformity factors the commission [has recently approved] are not as good as we would like, clearly, because we are going to have the same problem again,” he said.
He also was adamant about what VW needs to do to fix the cars affected. “They certainly need to fix the problem. How they fix it is up to them, but it needs to be fixed. We have around 1.2 million cars affected in the UK, of which a high proportion are in the London area. They need to be either recalled or fixed.
“It is not fair that the consumer cannot drive his car anymore, he brought his or her car in good faith.”
Focusing on Particulate Matter (PM), NOx, and CO2 emissions, Penchard mentioned the new London construction equipment regulations, in effect since last September. “You’ll be amazed how much construction equipment contributes to NOx and PM emissions. I was quite astonished. So Europe’s first regulation of construction equipment emissions came in September. We are starting with quite a really strict regulation in inner London.”
Another example of reducing emissions is the collaboration with businesses operating in the city. He mentioned the example of cleaning hours: before, most businesses, including shops and supermarkets, were cleaned during the night, and all the lights needed to be on for the cleaners to work. “Cleaners are now working during the day, during shopping hours. And the shoppers quite like seeing the cleaners while they are there, and now they can turn the lights off during the night.”
About CO2 levels, Penchard mentioned the commitment of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, to cut 60 percent of the 1990 levels by 2025. While he mentioned that “population has increased far more than we expected,” London has been able to disconnect the link between CO2 emissions and population and economic growth.