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Jeremy Simons, Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Environmental Services Committee, pens his City Matters column on air quality in the Square Mile

There is increased scrutiny of the way both public and private organisations deal with environmental issues. Here in the Square Mile, combatting air pollution is a high priority.

That’s why we are taking bold and practical measures to make sure our residents, workers and visitors can breathe clean air.

Following a period of public consultation, we recently published a new five-year Air Quality Strategy. It aims to ensure that 90% of the Square Mile meets World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for nitrogen dioxide by 2025, supporting the Mayor of London’s drive for London to meet WHO guidelines for particulates by 2030.

Although this sounds ambitious, we believe this can be done – if we continue to collaborate, innovate and push for change.

Taking a lead, we have already banned new diesel vehicles from our fleet, where there is a clean alternative, and are reducing emissions from our buildings.

And we are working with our contractors to realise our goal of becoming the first authority in the UK to run a fully electric fleet of Refuse Collection Vehicles.

In both our Transport Strategy and draft Local Plan, all new buildings and public realm projects will have conditions ensuring that they have positive impacts on air quality. The day-time closure of Bank Junction to all vehicles except buses has had a transformative effect.

We have supported electric vehicle charging initiatives for City residents and with the help of Transport for London, provided a convenient rapid-charging point for electric taxis. Last year we also cut charges for on-street parking for vehicles with lower emission levels. The increased use of cargo bikes has reduced the use of diesel vehicles for local deliveries in the City.

We are committed to eliminating emissions from idling vehicles and are working with other authorities to deliver a pan-London anti-idling action project, encouraging drivers to switch off their engines whilst parked.

The River Thames is another area where improvement is being sought and we are working with a number of partners including the Port of London Authority and the Cross River Partnership to reduce emissions from vessels on the river.

London’s local authorities need tough new powers to tackle air pollution caused by non-traffic sources, like boilers, construction machinery and diesel generators. With support from London Councils, we are promoting an Emissions Reduction Bill to do just that. This would also increase the fine for drivers who leave engines idling from £20 to £100. The Bill will be introduced in the next Parliament.

Information on air quality is important, so we are making air quality data more accessible to the public. Our CityAir app, which provides real-time air-quality alerts and advice on the best walking routes through the whole of London, allows users to avoid streets with poor air quality.

Cleaning up the capital’s air has to be one of the most important priorities for the public health of Londoners. We will continue to push for better air quality for everyone in the City and beyond.

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