Cities take lead on air pollution

2nd June 2016


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Politics & Economics ,
  • England ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Air ,
  • Prevention & Control

Author

Charlotte Dickinson

The growing need to tackle poor air quality in cities around the world is resulting in direct action.

Although central governments seem unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to bring air quality within the ‘safe limits’ set out by the World Health Organization (WHO), more cities are facing up to the challenge and introducing control measures.

One of the first acts by the new London mayor, Sadiq Khan, was to commit to substantially increasing the size of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) and to bring forward plans to implement it. The ULEZ will set new emissions standards for vehicles so that only the newest, cleanest diesel vehicles can be driven in central London.

The aim is to reduce the estimated 9,500 premature deaths in London every year due to long-term exposure to air pollution, and bring the capital’s air quality within EU limits. Figures for the UK as a whole show that up to 40,000 people die prematurely each year from poor air quality (including from indoor air pollution).

Updated figures for London from the WHO air pollution database show that annual mean levels of PM10 are 22ug/m3 – just above the recommended 20ug/m3. Levels of PM2.5 are 15ug/m3, compared with the recommended 10ug/m3.

It is not just London where action is being taken. In Delhi, the sale of diesel cars with two-litre engines or higher have been banned, and city authorities have introduced alternate day access for cars based on odd/even number plates. Paris has taken similar action and introduced weekend car bans in many areas.

The UN projections are for the global population to grow by 2.5 billion over the next 34 years, reaching 9.7 billion by 2050. Mega-cities will become the norm and new forms of mobility will be required that are clean and low-carbon.

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