London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans to tackle the problem of London’s dirty air with a “toxicity charge” that will target pollution-heavy vehicles.
Khan declared the issue of pollution a “health emergency” while visiting Great Ormond Street Hospital on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, which was introduced to tackle the issue of smogs blighting London.
“With nearly 10,000 people dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, cleaning up London’s toxic air is now an issue of life and death,” Khan said.
The ‘T-charge’, as it has been dubbed, will see vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emissions standards hit by an extra £10 daily charge, on top of the existing £11.50 Congestion Charge vehicles have to pay to travel through certain areas of London.
That means the majority of vehicles pre-2005 will be affected by the new charge, which will come into operation by the end of 2017.
Other proposals have been put forward to make London less harmful to its inhabitants and visitors, including introducing a London Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019, which would charge cars, vans and motorbikes that fail to meet emissions standards an extra £12.50 a day.
Under the same proposal, polluting lorries and coaches would have to pay an extra £100. In 2020, the charge would be extended beyond the Congestion Charge zone to the North and South Circulars.
Cleaner buses will also be put on the dirtiest routes, including the worst offender of them all, Oxford Street, and a detailed proposal for a national diesel scrappage scheme will be drawn up. Mr Khan also urged the government to maintain the existing legal limits for air pollutants in a pre-Brexit Britain.
Scientists have estimated 9,400 people die prematurely every year due to toxic air in the capital and kids are particularly at risk. “Children living in highly polluted areas are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood, yet improving air quality has been shown to halt and reverse this effect,” Great Ormond Street chief executive Dr Peter Steer said.
Outside of London, a shake-up of car tax (Vehicle Excise Duty as it is officially known) should help push motorists away from CO2-spewing vehicles, given that only cars that emit zero emissions and cost below £40,000 will be exempt.
Cars that emit between 1-50g/km of CO2 will be hit with a flat-rate tax of £140 after a first-year cost of £10. All cars registered after April the 1st 2017 will be affected. Two-thirds of motorists are said to be unaware of the changes.
The move is no doubt welcome when air pollution is a serious issue and one that can only get worse, but it seems odd the Government is hitting some electric cars in the process. A Tesla Model S owner, for instance, will pay £620 in VED over three years even though it emits zero emissions locally.