A High Court ruling has found the UK government has broken the law by not addressing illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in London.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the ruling and called for a new scrappage scheme to remove the dirtiest diesel-powered vehicles from the UK’s roads.
Khan said: "We need a revised package of measures to include funding a national diesel scrappage scheme. The most polluting cars, vans and other vehicles must be removed from our roads. A new approach to vehicle excise duty is also needed to incentivise drivers to buy the cleanest vehicles."
The London Mayor acknowledged other sources of NO2 had to be dealt with, such as from the construction industry. He pointed out that in 2010 NO2 pollution was responsible for 9400 deaths in the capital due to pollution-related illnesses.
Talking about the ruling, Mr Khan added: "It lays the blame squarely at the door of the government for its complacency in failing to tackle the problem quickly and credibly. In doing so, it has let down millions of people in the UK."
A further part of the London’s Mayor’s proposals include introducing an emissions surcharge, called the T-charge, for vehicles that fail to meet the required standard. Mr Khan also wants to extend the capital's Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2019, a year earlier than currently proposed, to the area within boundary of the North and South Circular ring roads.
The High Court action was brought against the government by environmental group ClientEarth. As a result, new measures will have to be put in place to reduce the levels of NO2.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said: "Improving air quality is a priority for this qovernment and we are determined to cut harmful emissions. Our plans have always followed the best available evidence. We have always been clear that we are ready to update them if necessary and have been at the forefront of action in Europe to secure more accurate, real-world emissions testing for diesel cars.
"While our huge investment in green transport initiatives and plans to introduce Clean Air Zones around the country will help tackle this problem, we accept the court’s judgment."
ClientEarth’s chief executive James Thornton said: "We are delighted at the verdict and that MPs from all parties agree with us that action is needed from the government to clean up this urgent public health crisis. This goes right across government, so the Prime Minister must take personal control to deal with illegal levels of pollution and prevent thousands of additional early deaths in the UK."