On Tuesday evening Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, welcomed representatives from London’s air quality community and advocacy groups to City Hall. The evening was designed to highlight the negative effects of poor air quality, share a progress update on measures taken to date and to open the floor for an exchange of ideas from the wider community.
Sadiq’s opening speech set the tone for the evening, showing his passion for improving London’s air quality, having made it a priority on his agenda for London to become a beacon in air quality initiatives and solutions.
Following the opening speech, Polly Bollington, Director of UK 100, led a panel discussion with Professor Stephen Holgate (University of Southampton), Andrea Lee (Client Earth) and Deputy Mayor for Environment Shirley Rodrigues (deputy Mayor for Environment). It was shocking to hear how devastating the effect of poor air quality is on human health, being the number one cause for health issues. Especially the social inequality that surrounds this issue was a real eye opener to me personally. We learnt that earlier this year Client Earth, who according to their website “use the power of law to protect people and planet”, won their third legal case against the UK government over their harmful levels air pollution and failure to act. We received an overview of ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) which supports the Mayor’s goal of making London a zero-carbon city by 2050.
Next up, the attendees were split into workshop groups to brainstorm solutions for particular issues the mayor wishes to solve. My group’s focus was on how we can encourage people to move away from using their cars. We found following barriers – convenience/comfort and knowledge. Our solutions were:
To provide better connectivity of public transport
To provide safer cycle routes, possibly physically separated from other road traffic
To make car travel safer for bicycles and less convenient for drivers (e.g. setting up more speed bumps and bollards)
To provide more in-depth cycle training for children
To communicate with parents and children
To introduce car free days
To introduce a better e-vehicle network for car sharing