We have all experienced poor air quality when out and about on our streets: that slightly choky feeling in the back of the throat. I know how bad it can be when cycling. All our main roads in Haringey, as in other London boroughs, exceed government levels for nitrogen dioxide and particulates. These are the pollutants that are worst for our health and children are particularly vulnerable.
The Mayor is primarily responsible for dealing with air pollution in London – but Boris has been asleep on the watch. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee reported in December that air pollution causes an estimated 7,500 premature deaths a year in London. There has been almost no progress on air quality since Boris became mayor in 2008. He is proposing an Ultra-low Emissions Zone, but not until 2020 and Haringey won’t be included in the zone.
The EU is now stepping in to protect our health. A recent EU judgement said that the government cannot just produce a plan to reduce harmful emissions, meaningful steps have to be taken to protect public health. This means that the government and the Mayor have to take urgent action to limit the most dangerous pollutants or risk EU fines.
Because we can’t see it, air pollution is easy for us to ignore, but with its enormous impact on human health this is something we can’t afford to do. We should limit the use of diesel engines by developing cleaner bus and truck engines, and aim to encourage a cleaner environment by planting trees and using wood boilers.
I am a keen cyclist and like many residents in Hornsey & Wood Green I encourage the use of sustainable transport. As leader of Islington Council and as chair of London Council’s Transport and Environment Committee, I worked hard to make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. I brought in a 20mph speed limit on all of Islington’s roads and fought to make HGV trucks in London fit safety measures to protect cyclists.
Haringey Council was the first authority to sign up to 40:20 – a pledge to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020. An important part of getting emissions down is by making transport more sustainable.
We all need to get out of our cars, to walk and cycle down to the shops. Luckily, most of us have great local shops within easy reach so we don’t really need to drive to do our pick up shopping. We can support our local economy and do our bit for the environment at the same time.
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green