London’s City Hall has published new data showing dramatic improvements in London’s air quality across the capital since 2016. New modeling of pollution in 2019 shows that, even before this year’s lockdown, measures implemented by the City since 2016 are helping transform London’s air.
There are two primary air pollutants of concern in London, based on their impact on human health: nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5). Poor air quality stunts children’s lungs’ growth and worsens chronic illness, such as asthma, lung, and heart disease.
While significant progress has been made, tens of thousands of Londoners still breathe illegally polluted air. 99% of Londoners live in areas exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended guidelines, which are much tighter than the legal standards.
Research shows that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be low-income households and Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities. There is also emerging evidence linking air pollution with an increased vulnerability to the most severe impacts of COVID-19.
World’s first 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)
In London, the world’s first 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone has contributed to a reduction of 44% in roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the central London ULEZ zone*. There are now 44,100 fewer polluting vehicles being driven in the central zone every day, with 79% of vehicles in the zone now meeting the emissions standards – up from 39% in February 2017. CO2 emissions in the central ULEZ zone are also now estimated to have reduced by 12,300 tonnes, a drop of 6%, compared to previous data.
In addition to introducing the central London ULEZ, the City also helps reduce emissions by:
- Creating 12 New Low Emission Bus Zones ahead of schedule, cutting bus-related NOx emissions by an average of 90% in the zones
- Improving London’s taxi fleet by no longer licensing new diesel taxis and reducing the age limit for older, more polluting cabs with more than 3,500 zero-emission capable taxis now on the street
- Launching air quality audits in 50 schools across 23 London boroughs and 20 nurseries. The audits assessed the air quality in some of the capital’s worst polluted schools and nurseries and have made a series of recommendations to protect pupils.
- Increasing the amount of protected space for cycling by 300% through the Streetspace program re-purposing thousands of square meters of London’s roads to make it easier, and safer, for Londoners to walk and cycle.
- Promoting a substantial increase in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, with TfL having delivered more than 260 rapid charge points. In total, London now has 5,000 charge points – 25% of the country.
There is still much more work to do before London meets legal pollution limits and Londoners breathe clean air. In inner London, 24% of roads still exceed the legal limits for NO2. For dangerous particles (PM2.5), the challenge is more significant, with only 1% of London meeting WHO recommended limits. This underlines the need to expand the ULEZ to the North and South Circular roads in 2021 as 3.8 million people live there.