Air quality must not become the forgotten issue of this election campaign, Lewisham West and Penge parliamentary candidate John Russell says today.
The environmental campaigner highlights that, unless more is done, the lives of over 50,000 Londoners will be cut short by air pollution by 2030. He says: “We all know that London has a problem with its air. In fact, the capital breached its annual limit for air pollution within the first five days of this year. This is terrible for our children, for anyone with breathing difficulties, and for everyone else. Toxic air is making our great city stink.”
John, former Forest Hill councillor and local champion, added: “The major cause of air pollution is road traffic, and especially diesel vehicles. Diesel engines emit very harmful particles that travel deep into our lungs. Many good things are being done to tackle this problem. I’m grateful for the work of the legal group ClientEarth, which has struggled through the courts to make the Conservative Government release a plan for combating air pollution. What a tragedy it is that we are dependent on civil society to fight for our basic right to have clean air.”
But he highlights that the Tory Government is still being evasive. “The Conservatives only published their draft Air Quality Plan before the election campaign because the courts forced them to. While the draft plan describes poor air quality as the ‘largest risk to public health in the UK,’ its proposals are toothless and wholly inadequate. Air quality is only mentioned once in the Conservative Party manifesto.”
By contrast, the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto commits to a complete ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans by 2025, combined with a scrappage scheme to compensate those who drive them now. In addition, the party will ensure that all taxies and buses in urban areas are either ultra-low emission or zero emission within five years. The Labour manifesto does not include such tough measures.
John adds: “The air we breathe stinks. It is literally killing us and our children. I will personally fight for even stronger environmental measures from my party. My personal belief is that the time has come for a system of pay-as-you-go road pricing to reduce pollution.”