Monday 15 March 2021 11:00 am

Air pollution is an invisible killer and a dangerous reality for Londoners

While Covid-19 and Brexit have continued to dominate national headlines, there’s another another critical issue affecting the lives of every Londoner, which hasn’t been front and centre.

Here in the City we’ve started three exciting schemes to help rid the capital of toxic air.

In partnership with Camden Council, and funded by TfL through the Mayors Air Quality fund, we’ve launched a London-wide advertising campaign encouraging drivers to turn off their engines when parked.

“Engine Off, Every Stop” features posters and billboards on roadside sites and petrol stations.

Drivers are also being reached with radio adverts, videos and social media, in a bid to change behaviour.

We want to highlight air pollution as an “invisible killer” and a dangerous daily reality for many Londoners.

As readers may know, idling vehicles emit pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter which are linked to asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and cancer.

People with respiratory conditions, the elderly, pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable.

And it’s estimated that up to 36,000 people a year die prematurely from long-term exposure to air pollution in the UK.

The campaign will reach over eight million people as part of Idling Action London, which sees 30 London local authorities and the City Corporation joining forces.

Switching off when parked is one of the easiest ways to cut air pollution.

Making that simple change creates a positive difference and we need all drivers to play their part.

But turning off your engine is just one part of the solution.

Using cleaner, greener vehicles is another.

And so we are proud to announce that the City Corporation will become the first UK governing authority to run a fully electric fleet of refuse collection vehicles.

Operated by Veolia, they will collect 20,000 tonnes of residents’ waste and recycling here in the Square Mile over the next six years.

The new 18-tonne and 26-tonne trucks will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, rather than diesel, and will help with the continued reduction of air pollution in the City.

It’s part of our plan to ensure at least 90% of the Square Mile meets World Health Organisation guidelines for nitrogen dioxide by 2025.

But to tackle air pollution you need to measure it.

That’s why we’ve launched a new ‘Citizen Science’ project with charity Mapping for Change.

It gives City residents the opportunity to record local air quality and we will use the results to develop new initiatives in future.

Tackling toxic air is a collaborative effort, and we need this support of City firms.

We’ve just revealed the 10 Square Mile businesses shortlisted in the capital’s top environmental gongs – the Clean City Awards – with companies improving London’s air quality dominating the list.

Winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony later this month.

These important measures complement our ambitious Climate Action Strategy, which will make the Square Mile net zero carbon-emission by 2040, 10 years earlier than government goals.

As part of the plans, we’ve committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions from our own operations by 2027 and 2040 across our investments and supply chain.

Nobody should have to breathe dirty air. And by working in partnership, residents, businesses and government can help eradicate it.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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