London commits to tackling air pollution but will it be enough?
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has committed to spending £875 million to boost air quality in London up until 2021/22.
A range of proposals have been made for ways in which to reduce the toxic pollution levels within the city. These include an Ultra-Low Emission Zone as well as five Low Emission Neighbourhoods across eight boroughs.
In a statement, Sadiq Khan said: “With nearly 10,000 Londoners dying early every year due to air pollution, tackling poor air quality is a public health emergency that requires bold action. I want London to be a world leader in how we respond to the challenge of cleaning up our air."
Following the commitment to ban diesel cars by cities across Europe including Paris, Madrid and Athens, a campaign group is calling for London to do the same.
Doctors Against Diesel held a protest in London, claiming 9,400 Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of breathing in toxic diesel fumes. Earlier this month London’s air pollution hit more than double the usual levels, according to the London Air Quality Network.
It came as temperatures plummeted below freezing amid clear skies and low wind levels. Parents were warned to be careful when taking children outside as pollution levels were high.
The most polluted areas of London are Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and the City and although pollution levels are dropping, it’s still a threat. The most dangerous types of pollution are significantly blamed on diesel engines, coal-burning power stations, agriculture and shipping.
Khan’s plans prioritise much of the promised spending on making London buses cleaner and incentivising cab drivers to switch from old black cabs to new ones capable of zero emissions.
Focussing on public transport can help to free the roads up from other vehicles and reduce emissions from older taxis and buses but what his current plans fail to address adequately is reducing diesel emissions from the hundreds of thousands of other vehicles polluting the City.
Earlier this year Volkswagen Group came into focus thanks to the dieselgate scandal, which showed each car’s emissions were higher than the legal limit allowed by the EU. This is actually the case for 97 percent of all diesel cars but it was only Volkswagen that was pulled into the spotlight.
The key to reducing emissions is holding manufacturers accountable for their cars as well as making it easier for people to get around London without the use of a car.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.