City of London Corporation policy chair, Catherine McGuinness, says there is plenty more still to be done despite the Corp’s notable progress in improving air quality in the City.
With political leadership battles dominating the media, it is quite easy to forget the issues that are a little closer to home, most notably air quality.
Many of you in the Square Mile understand that like much of central London, it can experience higher levels of air pollution than the rest of the UK. And the good news is that our monitoring shows air quality in the City is improving.
Regardless, we have not been idle on this issue and are taking a number of bold and radical steps in our fightback against toxic air for our residents, businesses and workers.
We’ve banned the purchase of diesel vehicles from our own fleet of vehicles, where there is a clean market alternative – and plan to turn parts of the Square Mile into zero-emissions zones by 2022. And we are looking to have the UK’s first fully electric fleet of refuse collection vehicles by the end of the year.
Last week for Clean Air Day we ran a number of guided lunchtimes walks to educate City residents and workers about low pollution routes through the Square Mile.
Also, our idling engine action days model, where staff and volunteers talk with drivers who leave engines on when parked, has recently received funding from the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Fund to bring this to 27 other boroughs across London.
We have brought in new emissions-based charges for on-street parking, targeting high polluting transport with higher charges while rewarding drivers of low emission vehicles with lower tariffs.
And in the East of the City, our collaboration with Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary has resulted in major improvements in clean air at the school. Together we’ve installed an air quality monitoring station, planted new green walls, fitted air filtration units in classrooms and brought in air quality lessons.
These improvements were boosted by our transformation of the local area with the removal of the Aldgate gyratory system, planting 71 trees and creating a new public square. Pedestrian access and cycling routes have been improved and traffic reduced.
And over 27,000 Londoners are using our CityAir app, giving users low pollution travel routes across the Capital, with advice and alerts when air pollution is high.
Our draft Air Quality Strategy, which will be finalised this summer, will strengthen this work, increasing our collaboration with organisations across London and boosting our partnership with schools by helping them to develop individual air quality action plans. Improving air quality has also been firmly embedded into our Corporate Plan, new Transport Strategy, Responsible Business Strategy and draft City Plan.
Local authorities need regulatory powers to control emissions from boilers, combined heat and power plant and diesel generators. That’s why we’re looking to introduce an Emissions Reduction Bill to stimulate new thinking in the policy debate.