Six actions emerge from Camden’s Air Quality Conference

Car free days, a diesel free borough, incentives and infrastructure for electric cars; more trees, hedges and green spaces; specific numerical targets on the Camden Air Action Plan and raising awareness in schools for behaviour change were the six action points emerging from Camden Council’s Air Quality conference and the workshop sessions.

Clean Air London’s Simon Birkett mooted the banning of diesel in London within seven years. Birkett said that it was achieved within seven years over coal in 1956, so it should be repeated now. He said there were parallels with the number of people dying in the fifties smogs, and the number dying now. The main difference – the deadly pollution could be seen back then.

Birkett said urban pollution could be divided into particles and gases and NO2 was a good measure of vehicle emissions. He said that some roads in London were the worst for NO2 in the world, and that walking down Oxford Street – everyone would have physiological effects to a certain degree. But on a positive note there had been changes over the last five years with increased media and public awareness – it was a top 3 issue in the Mayoral Election. He said the Ultra Low Emission Zone with charging in 2019 was an advance, but that we needed to be more radical and bring in bans for diesel.

Elliot Traherne, Air Quality Manager at the GLA said that sulphur dioxide had been tackled by legislation and regulations since the eighties, so there was hope. But a graph showing the four phases of attempted legislation on vehicle diesel emissions – Euro 3 – Euro 6 since 2000 had failed, spectacularly, and a case of theoretical driving emissions against real world emissions.


The Euro 3 -6 regulatory standards for diesel in the picture above are represented by a small corner in the South West area compared to what is happening in reality.

Traherne explained the charging schemes planned for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) by 2019, with yellow, red and green zones, and a T-charge for vehicles which don’t meet the Euro 4 standards at £10/day. And in 2019 a £12-60 charge on top of the congestion charge, and £100 for buses and lorries. He said that the ULEZ could reduce NOx London by between 30- 50%.


Keir Starmer (Photo credit: Matthisvalerie)

Local MP Keir Starmer, said that air quality was rising right up the political agenda, with 9000 deaths in London with 246 each year in Camden. He said in other fields it would be an outrage, but air pollution was unseen and hard to grasp.

He said he was pressing for an HS2 adjudicator, where local citizens could come and raise issues, including air pollution and get answers, and accountability and that it might happen. Pressure was also being applied for Old Oak Common to become the transfer terminal, rather than Euston. And he warned that we must keep EU air quality standards, rather than have none or watered down versions after exiting the EU.

Councillor Meric Apac, cabinet member for Sustainability and Environment and Conference chair opened the meeting by saying the government had seven days to come up with an outline plan to tackle NO2, following the High Court ruling earlier in the day. And finished by saying that fuel duty on diesel was currently lower than that on petrol, and that the government could do something about that.

Questions and Answers?

In the Q&A, Camden Air Quality Officer, Adam Webber said that in the Camden’s revised local plan, new developments won’t be allowed to worsen air existing air quality.

Asked about particulates by Camden Air Action‘s and the Green Party‘s Dee Searle, Simon Birkett said that NOx was localised and dominated by vehicle emissions and that if people moved 10 to 20 yards they would lessen intake, but that particulates come from numerous sources including shipping, agriculture, construction, along with tyres and breaks and fires and it would take more joined up action across different sectors to tackle.

On diesel emissions from construction sites, Adam Webber said that companies had to meet recently updated GLA emission standards and that anyone concerned should contact Environmental Health officers.

Workshop sessions

In the workshop sessions where delegates formed into smaller groups, ideas to tackle the local air pollution problems were put forward followed by a ranking criteria – 1, 2 or 3. What impact will the idea have on improving local air quality? How much the idea may cost to implement and the impact it could deliver? How easy or difficult the implementation might be. Those ideas with the higher added rank (see above) were deemed to be more attractive and feasible to implement.