Today the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced the dates for the beginning of London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ). This is of great interest to me personally. I’m an asthmatic and prior to moving to London, I lived in Dubai for 3 years. For those 3 years, although I took my medication daily, I was asymptomatic and hadn’t had an asthma attack for many years.
Fast forward to June 2016, I moved to London and almost immediately developed a continual cough and started to struggle with breathing. In less than a year I’ve had 4 separate asthma attacks and my consultant is still trying to find the right medication to control my symptoms and stop this happening as frequently.
It seems obvious that the air quality in London has a direct effect on my asthma and so the ULEZ is of great interest to me. I’ve been keeping an eye on the air quality with the London Air app and I know that the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, PM10, PM5 and PM2.5 particulates in the air are a big problem not just for me but for the other asthma sufferers in the city. Worse still, it is thought that 9,500 people a year die prematurely in London because of illness causes by air pollution.
In January 2017 it was reported that air pollution in London had surpassed levels in Beijing. We are continually breaching the safe limits for air pollution and even kids in school are at risk. At the time Mr Khan said “every child deserves the right to breathe clean air in London and it is a shameful fact that more than 360 of our primary schools are in areas breaching legal pollution limits.”
So what’s the solution, well looking at the plans for ULEZ it:-
- Covers the same area as the existing congestion zone and will be in addition to the congestion charge
- Applies to petrol vehicles that do not meet Euro 4 standards and diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro 6 standards
- Will apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- Will not apply to residents living in the zone until April 2022
- Black taxis are exempt
- Replaces the £10 T-Charge which will apply for older cars entering the capital from October
It all sounds very fancy but essentially it’s just another tax. Let’s be honest the people who own huge “gas-guzzling” Range Rovers can probably afford another few quid to pay Mr Khan every time they use their cars. My opinion on this is that it simply will not work.
Surely by now we need to be looking at more creative solutions to solving the pollution crisis? Trees and extra vegetation are to me, the most obvious answer. According to the Forestry Commission “Plants are involved in the uptake, transport and assimilation (or, in some cases, decomposition) of many gaseous or particulate pollutants. Therefore trees and vegetation can play an important role in influencing urban air quality, and in mediating some of the negative effects of pollutants. Vegetation also removes from the atmosphere carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main greenhouse gas associated with climate change.”
Additionally a study in Chicago in the 90s showed that the trees in the city removed approximately 17 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), 93 tons of sulphur dioxide (SO2), 98 tons of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and 210 tons of ozone.
So why aren’t we incentivising people to plant more trees? I know that the Kyoto protocol didn’t allow for funding for this but surely the tax collected by the existing congestion charge and now the ULEZ could be used? There should be conditions that new buildings should contain roof and vertical gardens where possible and all London residents should be encouraged to help clean up the air they breath by growing trees and plants. Even the smallest city flat could have a window box.
What do you think? Are there any other ways we could be reducing the pollution in the city?