BuroHappold on the introduction of the T-charge
At BuroHappold we are pleased to see the Mayor of London addressing the linked issues of emissions and wellbeing through the introduction of the Toxicity Charge (T-charge) today.
This is ahead of the ambitious plan to bring in the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) next year along with the electrification of the TFL bus fleet and the ending of licensing to diesel taxis.
I was excited to speak to BBC World News about London bringing in the ‘T-charge’ and the wider topic of dealing with the issue, and that of pollution in cities around the world.
These are all welcome changes; this is a significant wellbeing issue for London and we would like to see several things:
1. Berlin, Copenhagen, Zurich and Vienna, to name a few cities, have all banned the sort of vehicles that are covered by the T-charge from their city centres with significant beneficial effects, we should encourage that too.
2. Environmental legislation, from the Clean Air Acts of the 50s and 60s onwards, has allowed great steps to be made in dealing with environmental pollution, by banning dirty fuels and allowing effective enforcement measures. However these are outdated now and government needs to update the legislation for the current situation and beyond, to address all sources of pollution as soon as possible. With Brexit looming we are losing the role the EU has played in upgrading the environmental standards, making the Mayor’s ambitions so much harder to achieve. It is also vital for countries to work together with joined up thinking to reduce emissions, trans-boundary pollution can lead to poor air quality issues throughout Europe.
3. Regulation of diesel vehicles is arcane. Emission standards have failed to lead to real world reductions in air pollution. The T-Zone has to rely on laboratory emissions data which, as we now know, does not perform to the same standard in real world conditions. These discrepancies in emissions data were highlighted by the Volkswagen emissions scandal, and has led to the introduction of a real driving emissions (RDE) test, however this testing procedure should be transparent, taking into account a variety of different conditions and effectively enforced in order to restore confidence in this data. We need change here at a national level.
At the same time, from our work with New York, now the only city that is aligned with the Paris accord, and with our work in Berlin on urban mobility we know that there are so many other issues in play in how a city works.
- There is a major shift away from car ownership and towards shared rides, this can easily be encouraged by subtle changes to land allocation (for example, how much we charge for car-parking).
- We need a major shift to reduce the number of vehicles required to transport the same number of people. Through the Smartblocks projects in Barcelona we have seen how this can be achieved.
Well done London, great first step, but this is a big issue, regardless of how you approach the numbers. We want to help the Mayor and all of the citizens of London to create a healthy, competitive city. However, change has to happen at all levels – let’s not leave it to the Mayor – let’s all get behind the ambition and make real change happen.
And let’s not underestimate the challenge. London is being choked, literally!