Boris gives evidence to Env Audit Committee – Heathrow 3rd runway would make meeting air quality targets impossible
Boris Johnson has appeared before the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to answer questions on air quality issues, which have resulted in the UK facing legal action from Brussels. Boris has been accused of trying to mislead MPs over the success of his efforts to reduce air pollution, as he again urged the government to adopt his proposals for a diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers move towards cleaner vehicles. The UK has have failed to meet legal NO2 limits and now faces legal action and potential fines from the European Commission for failing to comply. Johnson argued that a scrappage scheme was only fair to the “punters” that had been “seduced” into buying a diesel car. On Heathrow, he said a 3rd runway would be a “nightmare” for meeting the EU air quality directive, and make it impossible to meet the air quality targets for London. He said expanding Heathrow would increase vehicular pollution, despite earlier claiming building new roads elsewhere would reduce it. There have been suggestions that Heathrow air pollution, with a new runway, could only be reduced by a local congestion charge near the airport.
Mayor Boris accused of misleading MPs over London’s pollution
Johnson appears before Environmental Audit Committee, as Labour confirms plan for national network of low emissions zones
By Jessica Shankleman
11 Sept 2014
The Mayor of London has been accused of trying to mislead MPs over the success of his efforts to reduce air pollution, as he again urged the government to adopt his proposals for a diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers move towards cleaner vehicles.
Boris Johnson yesterday appeared before the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to answer questions on air quality issues, which have resulted in the UK facing legal action from Brussels.
Johnson submitted figures to the EAC ahead of the session yesterday afternoon, showing absolute reductions for air pollution in the capital of 20 per cent. But Baroness Jenny Jones, Green Party London Assembly Member, accused him of using predictions rather than actual roadside readings to get the results.
Readings from Kings College London revealed that some parts of London had seen Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions fall by just three per cent, she said.
In a standoff with Jones at City Hall, Johnson told the Green Party member that she should be congratulating him on any reductions achieved, rather than criticising him. However, he failed to explain the reason for the apparent discrepancy in the figures.
When confronted later in the day by Green MP Caroline Lucas during the EAC hearing, Johnson argued the roadside monitoring stations did not provide a full picture of London’s air pollution.
“We are punctilious to a fault… in observing EU laws,” he said. “We stick our sensors and devices right by where the tailpipe of the most polluting vehicles would expect to be found and I’m far from convinced that is the technique adopted by every country in the EU. You have to rely on modelling and you cannot form a judgement about air quality simply by sticking your face as close as possible to the tailpipe of a double decker on Oxford Street.”
He also reiterated a call for the government to launch a £300m incentive scheme, to encourage drivers to trade in their old polluting diesel cars that have been charged with pushing levels of NO2 in London well beyond legal limits.
He suggested the government should offer drivers £1,000 to £2,000 for each vehicle that is more than 12 months old if owners agree to switch to cleaner vehicles. Diesel cars have been promoted by the government as an efficient and low carbon alternative to petrol vehicles, but a loophole in the current Euro V standard for cars means that they can emit high levels of NO2.
As a result, many parts of the UK have failed to meet legal NO2 limits and the UK now faces legal action and potential fines from the European Commission for failing to comply. Johnson argued that a scrappage scheme was only fair to the “punters” that had been “seduced” into buying a diesel car.
Johnson’s latest intervention came as the Labour Party yesterday pledged to crack down on air pollution if elected next year, accusing the current government of failing to understand the scale of the crisis. Speaking in London, Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle said a Labour government would introduce a new network of low emissions zones to tackle the problem.
“Local Authorities in London and across the UK want to implement low emission zones but are being discouraged because there is no support from Number 10 or the Mayor,” she said. “Labour will devolve the power, not just the responsibility, and support local authorities that want to tackle this public health crisis.”
It looks as if both Labour and the Green Party are keen to ensure air pollution ends up as an election issue next year – and Mayor Boris might just be willing to oblige.
Mayor of London gives evidence on tackling air pollution
The Environmental Audit Committee will take evidence from Boris Johnson, Mayor of London on air quality on Wednesday 10 September at 2.15pm
- Parliament TV: Watch the air quality evidence session
- Inquiry: Air quality
- Environmental Audit Committee
Wednesday 10 September at 2.15pm, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
- Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
- Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor’s environmental and energy advisor