Sadiq Khan has suggested that the air quality of cities around the world is at stake if his plan to expand the Ultra low emission zone (Ulez) fails to go ahead.
The Mayor of London told an audience of scientists on Tuesday that London was leading the way internationally in the battle against air pollution – but that other cities would grow “nervous” about taking their own measures if the Ulez does not expand.
“There are great mayors in great cities across the world looking to London in relation to this issue and if we don’t succeed, they’re going to get nervous, and they’re not going to be as passionate about this issue,” said Mr Khan.
“That’s why we’ve got to win the argument. We’ve got to make sure that [the] Ulez expansion lands well.”
The Ulez – which requires non-compliant vehicles to pay a £12.50 daily charge if travelling within the zone – is expanding to cover the whole of Greater London on August 29. The mayor says it will allow five million more Londoners to breathe cleaner air, and save lives, but those opposed to the move argue that it will hit people’s pockets during a cost of living crisis.
Mr Khan was speaking in central London at an event held to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of Imperial College’s Environmental Research Group.
The mayor also warned that an “anti-scientific mindset, one hostile to facts and reason, has been allowed to seep into our political culture and public debate”, which puts “dogma ahead of data, [and] ideology above evidence”.
He added that some in the audience had contributed towards a letter from 36 scientists to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the subject of air pollution, for which he thanked them.
The letter urged Mr Sunak to call out figures in his party who they say are ”dismissing the science” of air pollution.
Responding to Mr Khan’s comments about other cities “looking to London”, Nick Rogers AM, City Hall Conservatives transport spokesperson, said: “Sadiq Khan should stop worrying about what other mayors think of him, and focus on the fact that his Ulez expansion would have a negligible effect on air quality, while taking money from low income families, small businesses and charities.
“The lesson for anyone watching the backlash to Sadiq Khan’s disastrous policy is that you cannot ignore the public, and you should tackle air pollution where it is, not tax people where it isn’t.”