Fixing Capital’s Dirty Air a Priority for Majority of Londoners, Survey Shows

The poll revealed a major shift in public expectations for urban space and commuting across 15 European cities.
Fixing Capital’s Dirty Air a Priority for Majority of Londoners, Survey Shows
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Pollution over London. Image credit: shirokazan (CC BY 2.0)

Londoners want their next Mayor to tackle air pollution as a priority, a new pan-European survey has revealed.

The YouGov poll on post-pandemic mobility found that two thirds (67 percent) of Londoners surveyed wanted to see a reduction in pollution from traffic, while 62 percent supported a ban on polluting vehicles outside schools in the capital.

It comes as residents prepare to head to the polls tomorrow to vote for London’s next Mayor, in the first mayoral election to take place since 2016 after a year-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey of 15 European cities also revealed that 59 percent of Londoners felt that only emission-free cars should be allowed to be driven in their city from 2030.

“This survey makes it crystal clear that citizens are sick of breathing dirty air and are asking their mayors to put them, not cars, at the centre of  new mobility in cities,” said Barbara Stoll, Director of the Clean Cities Campaign, which commissioned the poll.

“Public opinion should be a North Star for decision-makers to make cities more liveable and sustainable. The London mayoral elections are a golden opportunity to show citizens their voice is being heard.”

‘Sick By Breathing’

The poll revealed a major shift in public expectations for urban space and commuting across the 15 European cities. More than eight out of 10 residents (82 percent) said they craved more green space and greenery in their cities. Over two thirds (71 percent) of respondents across the 15 cities said they wanted their mayors to do more to protect them from air pollution.

Alongside the survey, Clean Cities Campaign has also started a petition campaigning for diesel and petrol cars to be phased out in Europe, a move that is supported by 63 percent of urban residents in Europe, according to a separate YouGov poll published last month.

The UK government has announced a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, but has stopped short of demanding that all motorists transition to electric and hybrid vehicles from that point on.

The survey was conducted in March 2021 and comes as new modelled data analysis from Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDF Europe) revealed the far-reaching impact of air pollution from London’s major road network, known as the ‘Red Routes’.

The EDF analysis estimates nine percent – or nearly one in 10 – of the city’s children may be living in an area where they are at a significantly higher risk of developing asthma as a result of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that comes solely from vehicle pollution on the routes. 

Last year a coroner ruled that air pollution exposure contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013 – the first time that air pollution was identified as a cause of death in the UK. A coroner is now calling for national limits on air pollution to match World Health Organisation guidelines and made enforceable by law.

The survey was supported by the ‘Mayor 4 Clean Air’ campaign coalition of youth activists (Choked Up), parents (Mums for Lungs), health workers (Medact) and scientists (EDF Europe). The coalition has highlighted that the most deprived Londoners are over six times more likely to live in high pollution areas than the least deprived.

 “It is shocking to read that so many of London’s kids are at risk of also getting asthma because of where they live,” Mums for Lungs campaign member Ruth Fitzharris said. “All policymakers must urgently take action to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society don’t get sick simply by breathing.”

A report by the Mayor of London last year found that air pollution had fallen dramatically since 2016, when current incumbent Sadiq Khan was elected. However, it remains a major risk for Londoners’ health, with nearly a quarter of roads in inner London still exceeding the legal limit for nitrogen oxide.

Fixing Capital’s Dirty Air a Priority for Majority of Londoners, Survey Shows
Phoebe is Senior Reporter at DeSmog. She previously trained as a news reporter across local titles in Essex and East London, with her work since appearing in the Independent, Evening Standard, The Sun Online, Deutsche Welle, and The Local and Prospect Magazine.

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