The impetus for this isn’t hard to see: According to the ClientEarth green group
, by European Union rules England’s capital city will have “illegal levels of air pollution until 2025.” ClientEarth notes that the city’s announcement comes just weeks before the U.K. Supreme Court hears its air-quality case against the British government. “Is this a coincidence?” the group’s Alan Andrews asks. “I doubt it.” The London Assembly says that 9 percent of city deaths are due to air pollution.
“Creating the world’s first big-city, ultra-low emission zone has the potential to be a game-changing moment in the quality of life in our great capital,” the bike-riding Johnson said. “This would deliver incredible benefits in air quality and stimulate the mass use of low-emission technology.”
Maybe. If the “low emission” category includes a lot of gas cars (that happen to produce fairly small amounts of smog and carbon dioxide), then it won’t be a big change. If it includes only hybrids that can run on batteries a lot of the time (such as the Chevy Volt) it will do more. The latter version would certainly do a lot to reduce the city’s infamous congestion (below).
Andrews worries that the proposal will get watered down, as did the next phase of the low-emission zone to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions (it will only apply to city buses). The city is looking at options, and Andrews says to expect “noisy opposition from some taxi drivers, business and the motorist lobby.” He expects the ultra-low-emission zone proposal to be “quietly shelved.”
Some critics like the plan but don’t think it should be seven years down the road. Friends of the Earth wants faster implementation
, better public transit, and encouragement for more people to ride their bikes. Green Assembly member Jenny Jones said that “leaving [the zone] as a project for the next mayor to deliver is a way of ducking responsibility for the problem we’re facing now….We need the zone now, with a zero-emission target.”
Of course, the popular Johnson could still be in office in 2020, since he was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2012 and a proposal to limit London mayors to two terms was defeated in Parliament. The guy’s not only popular, he gets away with things. According to Boriswatch.com
, “One of the most astonishing things about Boris is that he has the ability to say anything and get away with it. He could argue that black was white, then argue the following day that black was black. We might think it odd, but then we shrug our shoulders, say ‘Well, it’s Boris’ and get on with things.” Here's Johnson proudly introducing London's bicycle-sharing program: