Dishing the dirt on pollution

London is facing fines of £300 million per year for illegally polluting the air. What are the authorities doing to clean up their act?
02 November 2015

Interview with 

Matthew Pencharz, Deputy Mayor, Greater London Authority


Industries causing air pollution


We've known for some time that air pollution has a negative impact on our health, Pollutionand cities worldwide are now coming under increasing pressure to clean up their acts. London is one of them. The UK capital is now facing fines from the European Commission of £300 million per year for failing to meet required clean air standards for gases like oxides of nitrogen - NO2 - and particulates which are known to harm health. Charis Lestrange went to the Greater London Authority to speak with Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy Matthew Pencharz to find out the scale of the problem...

Matthew - I'm not going to sit here and say that London is not a congested city because clearly, it is a congested city. But when you think about population rise we've seen, huge economic growth and yet, we've been relocated a lot space space away from cars to buses in the first instance and more recently to bicycles.

Charis - Obviously, air pollution is something that's a huge problem at the moment. How does London compare to other big cities in the world?

Matthew - Well, as in most major cities and certainly European cities too, so developed cities, air pollution, air quality is certainly a challenge. But we're actually doing relatively well compared to most of the world's cities. If you measure it by health impact, among 36 of the world's biggest cities, we do come 9th. Obviously that's not good enough, but I think it does show you sort of where we sit in the world and the fact that we are making some progress there.

Charis - So, is it true there's a potential that London could be fined for the amount air pollution it has at the moment?

Matthew - So it's worth saying that we're hardly alone in this. In fact, the great majority of EU States have failed to comply NO2 compliances. But the commission started infraction proceedings against our government and it is worth saying that the VW scandal, where a car company has been shown to be cheating on their emission standards. It kind of shows you parts of some of the blame lies here in that we've seen shifts to diesel cars and those diesel cars are not clean as we've been promised. Which is why cities such as London, other big ones in England and the UK, and also, on the continent are sort of fighting a battle with one hand tied on their back because one of the biggest tools we have is a clean car fleet, vehicle fleet. If those vehicles continue to be not performing at what we've been told they were going to perform, you can see the obvious difficulties there.


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