THE BLOG

Making London's Air Fit to Breathe

17/08/2015 22:36 BST | Updated 17/08/2016 10:59 BST

The fight to cut air pollution in London is literally a life and death matter.

Some 9,500 Londoners die from air pollution every year - with the poorest parts of the capital worst hit by pollution. London has the highest levels of air pollution of any European capital.

Everyone in London will know friends and family with asthma. Children growing up near busy roads have been shown to develop smaller lung capacity which has serious implications for their health in later life.

Air pollution affects all Londoners - from being in the dirtiest busiest thoroughfares like the Euston Road to the schools and workplaces we travel to daily. But it is London's poorest and most vulnerable that are affected most and that is simply unjust.

The current mayor has halved the size of the Congestion Zone and rather than slowing vehicle speeds he has endeavored to increase them. He has presided levels of air pollution that consistently breach EU limits, and has been exposed for spraying roads around air quality monitoring sites which affects the readings.

Under Boris' mayoralty a child born today will be 30 by the time they will breathe legally safe air in London.

This is unacceptable. London deserves better.

As a London MP I have worked with the Clean Air London group and have been leading national debates in Parliament to expose this crisis and the inaction of the Mayor and national government - bringing the Government to the dispatch box to explain themselves.

I am committed to London meeting World Health Organisation air quality standards. These limits are tougher than the EU requirements, which over candidates have mentioned, and are needed to drive the scale of action necessary to protect Londoners.

I will set up an Air Quality Taskforce to develop the policies to achieve this goal.

Most of the causes of air pollution are burning fossil fuels. We can dramatically clean up London's air if we also move away from high-carbon transport fuelled by diesel and petrol which contributes to climate change.

I support moving towards incorporating emissions based road pricing rather than solely a simple congestion charge based on area. I supported the introduction and expansion of London's Congestion Charge. Now technology allows us to make sure we tackle not just congestion but the air pollution that blights London.

I will direct the Air Quality Taskforce to develop a plan for emissions based charging. Vehicles could be charged based on clear factors that drivers would know in advance such as whether they are driving in rush hour; whether the car is zero emission, petrol and new or old diesel; whether the route is in inner or outer London; and per kilometre by size of vehicle. This change would massively incentivise cleaner road use, thereby helping us reduce pollution in London.

Low Emission Zones with tougher standards should be expanded.

I also support an urgent shift to electric vehicles - starting with London buses. I will direct the Air Quality Taskforce to learn from pioneering cities around the world that have moved much faster to electric buses, and come up with an urgent plan.

I support making the centre of London, and high streets across the Capitol car free during the day - so they become places for people not cars. I will work with the boroughs to work out how this can help rejuvenate local economies.

I oppose the expansion of Heathrow because it poses an unacceptable threat to the air we breathe. It would also drive up carbon emissions that we need to cut to avid runaway climate change.

We need to invest in alternatives to cars to make it easier as well as safer for Londoners to get about. Public transport, cycling and walking must be affordable and convenient.

Cycling deaths on roads not fit for bicycles are a scandal. My vision of London is one where people of all ages and backgrounds cycle - not just the bravest. For example, in Copenhagen 90 per cent of people own a bicycle and over a third of them are riding on a weekly basis.

I support separate cycling lanes, public information about cycle routes and the numbers of people taking to bikes - making it easier and safer to get about and renewing confidence after so many tragedies. Safe cycling and walking must form the core of London's long term planning strategy.

The things we need to do to tackle air pollution require a bold vision and commitment. They will make our capital a cleaner, healthier and more attractive place to live for all Londoners.

• Diane Abbott is the MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington as is a candidate to be Labour's candidate for Mayor of London. You can read more at www.diane4london.co.uk