London Mayor Plans Diesel Charge to Tackle Air Pollution

London Mayor Boris Johnson is proposing to charge diesel vehicles extra to use the capital’s streets in an effort to tackle air pollution that in places is more than double European guidelines.

The mayor is planning to set up as so-called Ultra-Low Emission Zone for central London to encourage vehicles to be low- or zero-emissions from 2020, his office said in an e-mailed statement today. He’ll deliver a speech on air quality this evening to mark the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act.

Smog in April and a government projection that London won’t meet EU air quality limits for 2010 until at least 2030 have put pressure on Johnson to rein in levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide, a by-product of burning diesel.

“Improving London’s air quality is an urgent challenge, it affects the health and well-being of all Londoners, and it simply cannot be put on hold,” Johnson is due to say in his speech. “This will be a game changer, but with just a little more energy, ambition and action from Westminster and from Brussels, London can meet the EU limits for NO2 by 2020.”

London and other European cities have struggled to lower NO2 emissions because of a surge in diesel use. Automakers have been incentivized to make more diesel vehicles, which emit less greenhouse gases per mile than gasoline-fueled vehicles, while letting out more NO2. The World Health Organization says NO2 can irritate the airways and worsen bronchitis in children.

Under Johnson’s plans, which are still under consultation, diesel-fueled vehicles will be required to meet certain European standards, or face an additional charge, “likely to be a similar amount to the congestion charge,” according to the statement. That fee, designed to lessen traffic jams in the capital, currently runs at 11.5 pounds ($19.5) a day.

The mayor aims to bring 200,000 ultra-low emissions cars onto the capital’s roads, along with 7,000 taxis and 1,600 buses that can be converted to zero-emissions. He’s also planning to set up 35 rapid charging hubs for electric vehicles, equipped with 350 charging points.

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