As the FT’s Simon Kuper recently reported, air pollution is said to contribute to more than 9,000 premature deaths in London each year and its harmful nitrogen dioxide levels are nearly as bad as those in Beijing and New Delhi – and much worse than in other developed cities such as New York or Madrid.
Nitrogen dioxide, which inflames lungs and is linked to shorter life expectancy, has become a major problem. The capital missed binding EU limits on air quality that came into force in 2010, largely due to diesel vehicles — which, it later emerged, emitted higher levels of pollutants in the real world than in tests. Congestion, which has pushed average traffic speed down to 8mph, compounds the problem. Add in the City of London’s narrow streets and tall buildings, and two of the capital’s five hotspots for excessive nitrogen levels lie within it.
The mayor of London is making headway
The impact of the City’s plans will be even greater if they bolster commitments by Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, to prioritise fighting air pollution throughout the capital and force the government to take action across the country.
- From this year, all new single-decker buses will be zero emission.
- New taxis must be hybrid or electric.
- Next year, an ultra-low emission zone will come into force in central London, expanding outwards in 2021.
The borough of Westminster has proposed turning Oxford Street, the UK’s busiest shopping location, into a zero-emissions zone by 2022 and a parliamentary committee has called for a UK-wide ban on new petrol and diesel cars to be brought forward eight years, to 2032.
The FT reports ‘lessons elsewhere’. Singapore has had an automated electronic road pricing scheme since 1988 and is moving to a satellite-based scheme in 2020 and advocates a move to cycling rates such as those In Amsterdam or Copenhagen.
Take a carrot-and-stick approach? The FT editorial board thinks that governments should both help and oblige people to change their behaviour
It cites Germany’s carrot-and-stick approach. A court ruling this week banned older diesel cars from driving in certain parts of Berlin – after the government had offered car owners generous bonuses for trading in older diesel cars.
The FT believes that The British government has not provided enough fiscal incentives to businesses and individuals who bought diesel vehicles in the mistaken belief that they were greener.
The Centre for London think-tank has proposed offering cash or mobility credits — which can be used to pay for public or shared transport — for scrapping diesel cars, as well as smarter distance-based car charges, and higher vehicle excise duties on the most polluting cars. The FT’s truism:
“Despite efforts to address it in London and other big cities, air pollution will remain dangerously high unless more people change behaviour. The City of London’s bold moves are worthwhile — but need to be happening not in a bubble, but right across the world’s major cities”.
Despite the government’s cruel raids on the most vulnerable, there is more than a bat squeak of pity for the PM as attacks mount
“There is something very satisfying about observing Prime Minister David Cameron on the receiving end of a hostile Tory media as he attempts to negotiate new terms for Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.
“This is a man very used to getting his own way, used to having and enjoying that same Tory media supporting his attacks not only on political opponents but on the poor and vulnerable, the defenceless, the voiceless and the marginalised, exaggerating and inflating his pronouncements in the process.
“Born into wealth, married into even more wealth, luxuriating in self-assurance and a veneer of charm, Cameron regularly dismisses legitimate concern and criticism of his government with a string of political catch phrases, jibes, insults and vacuous rhetoric. He does this not as a sideshow, but as a core trait of his political modus operandi”.
SB continues with a references to Cameron’s recourse to ‘fear tactics’ and a dependency upon his political foes to assist with the Remain campaign, as they did before the Scottish referendum, “to deliver a vital victory and personal salvation”.
Today in Rupert Murdoch’s Times, Philip Collins (below) wields the knife more gently:
“Only an incompetent leader would find himself with an overall majority but face possible resignation within months . . . David Cameron’s reputation as a leader has been rising . . . Yet, with all these advantages he has somehow contrived to get himself into a mess on the European Union such that, four months on from this undreamt of domination, he might be forced to resign. If the deal is declared a dud, if the referendum on EU membership goes against his recommendation to Remain, Mr Cameron will be finished. It is hard to think of a comparable political disaster . . .
He really isn’t as good as he appears, is he?
Mr Cameron has always been over-rated by his friends . . .
All fists flailing: the Plastic Hippo:
“Even if we disregard the blatant lies, the avarice, the duplicity, the arrogance and the sheer incompetence and if we forget the broken pledges, promises, pleas and piffle and if we ignore the bluff, double-bluff and triple-bluff, it is still possible to feel some sympathy for the Rt Hon David Cameron MP. It cannot be easy for a two-bit chancer, snake oil salesman and card-shark to invite himself to the biggest crap game in Europe and expect to be taken seriously.
“He might be a shallow embarrassment but he is our shallow embarrassment and at least deserves our pity.
“Cameron promised a “definitive” referendum on UK membership of the European Union. This solemn pledge was made when opinion polls confidently predicted another hung parliament and a continuation of the disastrous coalition between vicious Tories and the now extinct Liberal Democrats. Simply to break even, Cameron had to raise the stakes to see off the challenge of xenophobes, little Englanders and racists threatening to take votes in Tory marginal constituencies. Knowing full well that a referendum would never take place during a coalition government, he now has to go through the motions after unexpectedly gaining a slim majority.
“This bold action will reduce the national debt by about the same amount as the cost of Mr Cameron`s travel and catering bill accrued to secure the deal.
“The promise was of full-on treaty change, massive reform and ever widening European division. Realising that he is holding a busted flush, snake eyes Cameron has dropped the anti. He will fold and walk away from the Brussels crap game waving his winnings at a grateful British public. The massive reforms will include an end to benefits paid for the fifth, sixth and subsequent children of Transylvanian shepherds currently working in Redcar steel mills. This bold action will reduce the national debt by about the same amount as the cost of Mr Cameron`s travel and catering bill accrued to secure the deal.
The Hippo notes: “Full-on treaty change will ensure that the European parliament will not be allowed to impose impertinent and unnecessary scrutiny and regulation of the City of London thus maintaining the honourable reputation of that noble financial institution as the finest, most relaxed illegal gambling den on the planet. Knock twice and tell them Dave sent you”.
And Steve ends:
“For a variety of reasons I still think that Remain will win, yet be in no doubt that before polling day Cameron will be forced to make further concessions to salvage a campaign where both he and the Establishment will often be outflanked and outwitted by opponents. But the discomfort of David Cameron, watching him duck and dive serious political engagement, and find out what it’s like to be relentlessly pilloried in the media, promises to be something to savour”.
Pins for butterflies anyone?
- Asked whether the City of London should be nervous about his prospective victory on September 12, he said bankers should wake up to Britain’s “gross inequalities”. “I do think the salary levels and the bonus levels again have got to be looked at,” he said. “I am looking at the gap in every organisation between highest and lowest levels of pay.”
- On the media, Mr Corbyn signalled plans to change ownership rules in the UK, saying that there was far too much concentration of news organisations in the hands of too few. “We need a media that is not controlled by a very small number of very big interests . . . [Mr Murdoch] should understand that we’re very serious about diversity of media ownership and I hope he will understand that.”
- A Corbyn opposition party would promise to bring back the 50p top rate of income tax that the coalition abolished early in the last parliament. However, he said he had no plans to hit the City with new taxes, saying that the current bank tax imposed by chancellor George Osborne was “about right”.
- Mr Corbyn also vowed to oppose the expansion of Heathrow, which would cause consternation among business leaders who favour the project. “The third runway is a problem for noise pollution across west London . . . we have to use underutilised capacity elsewhere,” Mr Corbyn told the FT. “I’d vote against it in this parliament.”
- The Labour leader candidate also turned his attention to Nato, saying the “cold war product . . . should have shut up shop in 1990 along with the Warsaw Pact”. He said he was nervous about Nato’s eastward expansion, stressing the need for a “better-developed relationship with Russia” — though he insisted he was “no defender” of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Jeremy Corbyn’s policies are set out on this page.