Policy Exchange teams up with King’s College London on major new study on how to tackle air pollution in the Capital

Two of the leading research organisations in the country today announced a partnership to produce a major new study into policies to improve air quality in London. Policy Exchange, the UK’s leading think tank, which has a track record of producing ideas that have impacted the policy debate, will join forces with King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group, one of the global experts in air quality science.

The ground breaking study is being supported by the Trust for London, the Liebreich Foundation, and the City of London Corporation.

Air pollution is a significant issue in London, leading to the premature deaths of thousands of residents each year, particularly in poorer areas. London has failed to meet air quality targets, and the Supreme Court has given the government until the end of the year to work up a plan to improve the situation. This study, to be carried out over the next few months, will provide independent estimates of likely air pollution levels once current policies are implemented, and identify what additional steps are required in order for London to meet legal air quality limits. This work builds on a previous Policy Exchange report Something in the Air: the forgotten crisis of Britain’s poor air quality.

Richard Howard, head of environment and energy at Policy Exchange, said:

“Air pollution causes the premature death of thousands of Londoners each year. The Mayor is taking steps to improve air quality, for example through the introduction of an Ultra Low Emissions Zone, but we still don’t fully understand the impact of planned policies, or whether they will be sufficient to tackle air pollution. Our study will identify and compare possible solutions to improving air quality in London, for example, shifting towards low emission buses and taxis.”

Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health and Director of the Environmental Research Group  at King’s College London said:

“We welcome the opportunity to work with Policy Exchange and the parties funding this important work. Solving London’s air pollution problems is not going to be easy but this research will help clarify the range of policy options available as well as their likely impacts on improving air quality. With this information available in the public domain it will facilitate an open, wide ranging discussion, about the best way forward.”

Mubin Haq, Director of Policy and Grants at Trust for London, said:

“Each Londoner loses on average nine months of their life as a result of the dirty air we breathe. It affects all Londoners but particularly the poorest. Children living in the worst streets in the capital for air quality are nearly 50% more likely to be eligible for free school meals than the London average.

“Whether the proposed measures, including the Mayor’s ultra low emission zone are sufficient, even if London’s population did not grow, is unclear. But with an increase of around one million people over the next decade, the changes needed require a new scale and urgency. Sixty years ago the Clean Air Act revolutionised how we dealt with dirty air because 4,000 Londoners died in the Great Smog of 1952. With a similar number of deaths each year in the capital because the air isn’t clean enough, we are supporting this research to assess what action will make a difference.”

Wendy Mead, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environment Committee, said:

“The UK has been breaching legal limits for nitrogen dioxide for the past five years, with particularly serious consequences in London, which suffers from the worst air pollution in the country. As the authority for the capital’s business district and a major London public services provider, we strongly support pollution reduction plans.

“This study will help policymakers to gain a greater understanding the impact of the reform proposals currently on the table, and the type of action that will be required if we are to meet the air quality limit values in the shortest possible time.”

Notes to editors:

  • As part of this study, King’s College London will produce new analysis and projections of air pollution and air quality levels to 2025 under a range of policy scenarios, using the well-established London Air Quality Toolkit model. We will also calculate the health impacts associated with air pollution, as well as investigating the link between air pollution and wider deprivation in London.
  • The study will commence in July 2015 and will produce reports in September and December 2015.
  • Trust for London is the largest independent charitable foundation funding work which tackles poverty and inequality in the capital. Each year it provides around £7 million in grants and at any one point is supporting some 400 voluntary organisations. It made a grant of £79,000 to Policy Exchange and Kings College London towards research providing an independent evidence base and recommendations on the most effective policies to improve air quality in London.
  • The City of London Corporation is the governing authority for the City of London and a major public services provider across the capital. It has three roles (i) supporting London’s communities by working in partnership with the capital’s  boroughs on economic regeneration and skills projects (ii) looking after London culture and green spaces, including Museum of London, Barbican Arts Centre, Tower Bridge, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, and Burnham Beeches, and (iii) supporting and promoting the ‘City’ as a world-leading financial and business centre.

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