On Sunday, the Mayor will close 20 km of roads in London’s city centre, with 18 boroughs hosting local celebrations, and hundreds of activities scheduled to take place across closed streets. More than 150,000 Londoners are expected to join in an effort to bring communities together and create play streets for children and a positive vision of what a global city can look like in a healthier and more sustainable future.
According to the World Health Organization, seven million people die from air pollution every year, making it the greatest environmental threat to health today. Urban air pollution in particular is increasing by 8 per cent every five years, and 95 per cent of cities worldwide do not meet World Health Organization’s guidelines. “This is also an issue of social justice, with the poorest people suffering the worst impacts of air pollution, despite driving the fewest cars,” says Khan. The impact of air pollution goes beyond human health and inequality, and has detrimental effects on our economy, food security and the climate crisis.
Global cities such as London are introducing strict regulations to limit the levels of air pollution in their urban areas. Earlier this year, Seoul, South Korea introduced new legislation that mandates every school classroom to have an air purifier, and Santiago, Chile took delivery of its first 100 e-buses in December 2018 as part of plans to electrify the public transport system. Khan took the opportunity of this year’s World Car-Free celebrations to announce the introduction of a new ultra-low emission zone—a world first—in the city centre. This means that vehicles driving into central London have to meet the toughest emission standards of any global city.
Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat said efforts to reduce pollution in cities by moving to cleaner bus fleets and non-car public transport options has immediate and long-term benefits.