Air Quality - A ‘step’ in the right direction…
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently approved the outline of a special report ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’.
This report details the impacts of which a 1.5°C rise in temperature - above pre-industrial levels - could have on our planet. The report stresses the necessity on keeping global warming below 1.5°C and improving the global greenhouse gas emission pathways in an effort to strengthen the response to climate change and help to eradicate poverty. To achieve this target we will need to decarbonise our cities, counties and countries alike by 2050. This is a tough challenge, but necessary regardless according to the IPCC.
The following day after the report was released, the City of London introduced a plan to dramatically reduce traffic by removing cars from the ‘Square Mile’ – the primary central business district of London. The City’s local authority, City of London Corporation, proposed that cars will be prohibited from half of all roads in the city centre. Any cars that are authorised to drive through the Square Mile will be limited to a 15mph speed limit. This is in an attempt to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Carbon resulting from vehicle emissions has been a long standing target in the UK. Part of this strategy saw use of diesel cars incentivised, although this led to an increase in nitrogen oxides in our air. Nitrogen dioxide is part of a group of gaseous air pollutants produced as a result of road traffic and other fossil fuel combustion processes. Its presence in air contributes to the formation and modification of other air pollutants, such as ozone, particulate matter and acid rain but also has been linked to respiratory diseases. So an about turn has now led to a car tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) increase in the UK for diesel cars back in April 2018, in an attempt to promote electric vehicles and reduce these emissions.
Details of a 12-month pilot project were also released by City of London last week to close off a south section of Moor Lane, near Moorgate underground station, to all vehicles that are not Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). These are classified as vehicles that emit less than 75g/km of carbon dioxide.
The City of London Corporation presented these plans to local elected officials. All of this is in the run-up to the publishing of the Transport Strategy due to be released in Spring 2019. The core of this strategy is to pedestrianise our streets surrounding key tube stations such as Liverpool Street and Moorgate. I regularly walk around London when attending customer site visits, and find that the majority of the footpaths are overcrowded. I’m certainly interested to see what changes in infrastructure will be implemented to accommodate an increase in pedestrians and cyclists.
These plans fall in line with policies underway in other cities such as Oslo, where they intend to have a car-free city centre in 2019. It’s fantastic that the City of London is evolving and planning to become car free; the rest of the UK has a way to go but it’s a step in the right direction.