Time to ban old diesel engines and clean up our air

London MEP Sarah Ludford wants to ban diesel vehicles with old engines from central London. The campaigner for clean air is calling on Boris Johnson and the government to clean up London’s polluted air. The EU recently held off from taking the Government to court for failing to meet limits on health-damaging particles in London’s air, particularly from diesel engines. But this reprieve is only on condition London puts together an action plan by June, as the Liberal Democrat MEP explains:

London’s air is the dirtiest in Britain, which is a disgrace. It seems that Brussels just doesn’t believe that London has any chance on current plans of complying with the European clean air standards that the government signed up to.

It’s time to stop trying to fob off the EU with meaningless ‘air quality plans’—we must really put our backs into making London a place where people can literally breathe freely and not die young.

There are realistic measures such as retrofitting the most polluting vehicles with filters, speeding up modernising London’s bus and taxi fleet, extending the boiler scrappage scheme for replacing of old boilers that pollute the atmosphere and making central London a ‘Clean Air’ zone in which old diesel engines would be banned.

This is not about Europe’s demands. It’s about whether we Londoners want to live in a place which keeps people healthy—or kills them off!

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Mayor Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman must deliver urgent action, not platitudes.

I have asked the EU Commission to clarify whether it is looking only for ‘emergency’ action of one-off controls to meet EU norms by June, or whether it is demanding significant long-term changes to lower London’s emissions rates.

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This is the second time Britain has requested an exemption after the first request was rejected by the EU Commission in 2009.

The UK authorities have to adjust the air quality plan for London by June 11, just eight weeks away. This is the date by which the exemption ends and the PM10 daily limit of pollutants in the air we breath will have to be met.

EU clean air law says that member states need to make sure dangerous PM10 pollution does not go over a certain level more than 35 days each year.

But already this month, just a quarter of the way into the year, London has had 29 such days.

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