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London has joined the BreatheLife campaign becoming the first mega-city to commit to reaching the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines. At the announcement, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan released new figures showing that nearly 95% of Londoners live in areas that exceed WHO safe limits by 50%.
"It’s sickening to know that not a single area of London meets World Health Organisation health standards,” Mr Khan said. “We should be ashamed that our young people – the next generation of Londoners – are being exposed to these tiny particles of toxic dust that are seriously damaging their lungs and shortening their life expectancy. I understand this is really difficult for Londoners, but that’s why I felt it was so important that I made this information public so people really understand the scale of the challenge we face in London.”
The research, based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, shows that every area in the capital exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for a damaging type of particle known as PM2.5.
The WHO recommends an upper limit of PM2.5 of 10 micrograms/cubic meter, and this is the target London plans to reach by 2030. London’s Air Quality department has done extensive analysis to ensure that this is an ambitious but realistic target.
It’s a big goal, but London has an extensive plan in place to meet it, backed by serious science and stakeholder consensus. The city’s air quality strategy centres on another ambitious target: becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050. Achieving this vision will require broad citywide action, from the institutional level to the individual.
Here are some key aspects of London’s vision and strategy for cleaner air.
London’s plan to clean up their air means millions of people will be able to walk to work and walk their children to school without worrying about whether the air is going to make them sick.Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
This support for the Breathe Life campaign means that millions of people can cease being hostage to toxic fumes.Erik Solheim
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, welcomed London to the BreatheLife Campaign saying: “To ensure good health, every person must be able to breathe clean air no matter where they live. London’s plan to clean up their air means millions of people will be able to walk to work and walk their children to school without worrying about whether the air is going to make them sick. More cities around the world must also follow suit.”
Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “This support for the Breathe Life campaign means that millions of people can cease being hostage to toxic fumes. It sets an example of positive action that we hope cities around the world will follow.”
On August 11, Mayor Sadiq published a draft of the London Environment Strategy. This plan is open for public comment until November 17.
BreatheLife is a Climate and Clean Air Coalition initiative led by the World Health Organization and UN Environment. It currently has a network of 36 cities around the world working to improve air quality for their citizens. Cities wanting to join the campaign can find more information here.