London’s new Muslim mayor is feeling the pressure from environmentalists to fulfill promises he made during the election to keep the city’s population from dropping dead because of pollution, as well as force the city’s retirement pension to purge its fossil fuel assets.
Mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of England’s Labour Party, is now forced to reckon with promises he made while championing the moniker of the capital’s “greenest mayor.”
Khan notched a victory May 5 despite a rough campaign by England’s Conservative Party, which attempted to tie him to terrorism and extremists.
“We congratulate Sadiq Khan on winning the election,” environmental activist Areeba Hamid told reporters. “With victory comes responsibility for the air that eight million people breathe, and right now that air is often poisonous.”
Khan’s success depends on the survival of London’s children, Hamid added. In other words, he said, if kids live long healthy lives, then Khan will have a productive term; if they succumb to pollution, however, then his time in office would be a massive failure.
To make sure Londoners don’t die, Hamid noted, the mayor needs to create a Clean Air Zone, or a type of blanket around the city.
“Air pollution kills ten thousand Londoners a year, but by phasing out the most polluting cars, investing in public transport and getting people walking and cycling the new mayor can save a huge number of lives,” he added.
Khan campaigned alongside five extremist preachers in 2004 while running for parliament. He also served as the chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s legal affairs committee, which defended Muslim scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradaqi wrote “The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam,” in which he defended the practice of spousal abuse and called suicide bombings against Israelis “God’s justice.”
Khan, for his part, would later go on to say during a testimony in parliament that “there is a consensus among Islamic scholars that Mr Al-Qaradawi is not the extremist that he is painted as being.”
Aside from that, Khan has made inroads with the environmental crowd.
“We’ve got hundreds of millions of pounds invested in all sorts of things. I’m going to lead by example and say we’re not going to invest anymore in fossil fuels,” Khan said in an interview with Guardian in 2015.
Khan will be responsible for allocating the capital’s $23 billion annual budget, as well as oversee London’s policing, housing, and public infrastructure. If his campaign promises are any indication, Khan could move to purge the city’s fossil fuel assets.
He also pledged that year to campaign against a new runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, arguing the runways contribute to increases in pollution, citing research showing pollution kills nearly 10,000 Londoners every year.
“You can’t have a new runway at Heathrow when you want to improve air quality … There are children whose lungs are underdeveloped in certain parts of London because of air quality … it’s a killer, it makes people unwell and it’s illegal,” he told the Guardian at the time.
Development at Heathrow Airport has become a cause celebre recently for environmentalists, many of whom believe another runway at the airport could cause more pollution-related deaths.
A gang of green activists in the United Kingdom, for instance, managed to avoid prison in February after members decided to tether themselves to barriers at Heathrow. Given the nickname “Heathrow 13” by the media, the group’s members were given a 12-month suspended sentence, meaning they will only go to prison if they violate the law within a year.
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