London is committed to taking bold action against climate change

Sadiq Khan

Humanity is at a crossroads. Decisions made by political leaders in the coming weeks could decide the course of our planet’s future for many years to come, and as mayor of one of the world’s great cities I feel the weight of that responsibility keenly.

London benefited greatly from industrialisation. The dense smog that once consumed our capital was the lethal residue of decades of innovation and prosperity. Now that we’re alive to the dangers of toxic air, London is leading the charge in ending our over-reliance on polluting vehicles. We are championing green and sustainable modes of transport, enabling millions of residents and visitors to breathe cleaner air.

Last week, I was announced as chair-elect of C40, a global network of close to 100 megacities committed to taking bold action against climate change. Our party has a proud history of international cooperation and has always recognised that global problems require global solutions. As chair of C40, I want to harness the power and reach of cities, encouraging partnership with their respective governments and sharing best practice about how to fulfil the highest aims of our shared environmental ambitions.

But I also want to ensure that social justice is at the heart of my platform as chair of C40. Labour has long recognised that access to clean air and a safe and healthy environment are social justice issues, and it is in this spirit that I am keeping pressure on the government to ensure their environmental pledges come to fruition.

The much-anticipated expansion of my ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) came into effect earlier this week. A key election pledge in 2016, the world’s-first ULEZ is the boldest, most ambitious environmental policy City Hall has ever delivered. There is simply no measure like it in any comparable city in the world. The ULEZ is now 18 times bigger, with almost four million more Londoners benefiting from cleaner air by being within the zone.

From 39% of vehicles being ULEZ-compliant in February 2017, we now have 87% of the vehicles in the expanded ULEZ zone making the grade. Alongside upgrades to our transport fleet, and the radical expansion of walking and cycling infrastructure, a study suggests my interventions have accelerated the prospect of reaching legal air targets from more than 190 years to within five.

From stunted lungs in childhood to adult-onset asthma and even dementia, we know that it is the poorest Londoners – those least likely to have a car – who are most likely to suffer the worst consequences of breathing toxic air. The ULEZ will help redress the balance by reducing the exposure Londoners have to high-polluting vehicles. This is the life-saving difference Labour policies can make in power.

On Monday, along with the mayors of cities around the world, I will head to Glasgow for COP26. The conference presents a golden opportunity to focus our collective will on averting a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. In partnership with my fellow city mayors, I am determined that we heed the warnings of science and learn critical lessons once and for all.

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