Delay on environmental policy puts Londoners’ lives at risk – the time to act is now



People are dying in London every day from breathing in toxic air – and the government is blinding us with false promises, while doing nothing to stop it.

The truth came out over the weekend, when environment secretary Michael Gove appeared on The Andrew Marr Show. His comments on the ability of a future prime minister to reset our relationship with Europe grabbed the headlines, but buried at the end of the interview was a brief, but telling, discussion prompted by the procession of freak weather events in 2018.

Marr put it to Gove that, according to the Climate Change Select Committee, the UK is not currently on target to meet its 2020 carbon emissions targets. “There is a lot more that we need to do,” Gove replied, emphasising the need to take steps to cut the level of greenhouse gases polluting our atmosphere.

He reiterated the government’s target to have no more diesel or petrol cars on our roads after 2040, adding, “our target is one of the most ambitious in the world.” He also said the government is investing in new technology to make sure that the UK is a leader in ultra-low emission vehicles. Well, I don’t think that is very ambitious at all. Tackling the pollution that is ravaging our city and taking lives – as many as 9,500 each year, according to researchers at Kings College London – is far more urgent than that.

I read this week that polluted air breathed in by pregnant women can affect their unborn babies. It was a small sample, but the results grabbed headlines – and when you think the promises made by the government to meet environmental targets won’t be met until after these now unborn children have left university, you have to wonder – what is stopping them?

While I recognise there are challenges that must be overcome in order to make this happen, why wait? We could make a decisive and important start by phasing in a ban on all cars entering zone 1, sooner rather than later.

The only way to back up your environmental credentials is by taking radical and much-needed action. Not only would it send a message, but we would also see a tangible, positive impact on the centre of our city.

I urge the government, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, to commit to this now – before it’s too late.

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