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Breathe: Seven Ways to Win a Greener World

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It wasn’t until I was elected mayor of London in May 2016 that I learned of Ella’s case. Soon after, I met professor Stephen Holgate, an expert on air pollution and asthma. He identified the “striking association” between Ella’s hospital admissions and the most dangerous episodes of air pollution around her home, and concluded that Ella’s death certificate should reflect air pollution as a causative factor. He said there was a “real prospect that without unlawful levels of air pollution, Ella would not have died”. Did you act unlawfully, I ask him today. “No, it wasn’t unlawful. If it was unlawful where’s the court case; where’s the legal challenge? It was the right thing to do and I stand by it.” Again, he says, he was prepared to take a tough decision. “When I lost confidence in the commissioner, I was by myself. The prime minister was against me, the home secretary was against me, Tom Winsor was against me. And you know what? It’s been a consolation to say I was vindicated.” This March, Louise Casey’s report into the Met concluded that it is institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic. To help reduce pollution and improve the air that we breathe in Tower Hamlets, we’ve introduced the Breathe Clean campaign to reduce the impact of idling engines, installed seven air quality sensors across the borough, increased the amount of cycling hangers and planted over 740 of our goal of 1,000 trees across the borough.”

Above all, the inquest verdict hammered home why it was important to take the environment seriously. Through running the marathon I learned that climate change is a force that harms all of us – not people “over there” in the distant future. And I learned that London is filled with brilliant, thoughtful, motivated people who want to do their bit. People like Rosamund, who remains a fearsome campaigner but was, first and foremost, a mum to Ella. An estimated 3.8 million Londoners live in the expanded ULEZ zone and are set to directly benefit from the scheme when it comes into operation in October. Patients and staff at the Royal London - which is home to one of the largest children’s hospitals in the UK and has one of London’s busiest paediatric A&E departments - are also set to benefit as it is situated within the expansion zone. Alex Williams, TfL’s Chief Customer and Strategy Officer, said: ”Expanding the ULEZ is vital for public health in this city. We know that there are more deaths that are attributed to toxic air in the city’s outer boroughs and that bringing in these world leading standards over a larger area will see millions more breathing cleaner air. Our experience of these schemes shows that they work, with significant reductions in pollution since the first zone was introduced in 2019.

Sir Ian Cheshire, Chair, We Mean Business Coalition; Chair, Channel 4; Chair, Spire Healthcare Group; Chair, Menhaden Capital, and non-executive director at BT, said: “I applaud the Mayor of London’s decision to expand his flagship air quality policy, the Ultra Low Emission Zone, which will mean five million more people breathing cleaner air. This is the kind of large-scale, decisive action we need to halve emissions this decade, and I have no doubt businesses in London and around the world will recognise the huge benefits that this policy will bring to communities and families across the capital." While significant progress has been made, with a substantial reduction in the number of Londoners living in areas exceeding legal limits for NO 2, tens of thousands of Londoners still breathe illegally polluted air and 99 per cent of Londoners live in areas exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended guidelines for PM2.5, which are much tighter than the legal standards. Expanding ULEZ London-wide will save 27,000 tonnes of CO2 in outer London, nearly double that which the central London ULEZ achieved in its first year of operation. Amongst other improvements, the expansion is forecast to make further progress to reduce air pollution, by reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from cars and vans in outer London by 10 and 7 percent respectively, and reducing PM2.5 car exhaust emissions in outer London by nearly 16 per cent, benefitting five million outer London residents.

We are committed to improving air quality in Kingston, and we hope that these new measures will encourage more people to travel sustainably, creating a safer, cleaner environment.”


TfL will continue to explore with London boroughs how those holding Blue Badges who are not automatically eligible under the proposed benefits criteria for the grace period could be eligible. So began our campaign to have a new inquest. It took four years to get a verdict, but when it came, it was transformative. In December 2020, coroner Philip Barlow concluded that toxic air had indeed played a role in Ella’s death. She became the first person in the UK to have “air pollution” listed as a cause of death. Mayor Khan believes cities have a pivotal role to play in achieving a green and just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. He told delegates at COP26: “Our cities can harness the ingenuity of the human spirit to help conquer the threat of global warming. In doing so, we’ll be able to fashion a new world after the pandemic that has as its guiding principles equality, fairness and climate justice.”

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