London’s First Muslim Mayor Declares War On Old Cars

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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London mayor Sadiq Kahn proposed Tuesday a $13 pollution charge on older, dirtier vehicles inside central London.

The charge, which would apply to all vehicles sold prior to 2005, is in addition to the nearly $14 congestion charge leveled against motorists.

“With nearly 10,000 people dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, cleaning up London’s toxic air is now an issue of life and death,” Kahn said after announcing the proposal. “It is the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act of 1956, which was passed following the great London smogs of the 1950s. Today we face another pollution public health emergency in London and now it’s our turn to act.”

The move comes on the heels of a similar decision by Paris officials July 1.

Paris announced the ban would be targeted at old vehicles to cut down on pollution, and will affect all motorists with vehicles registered before 1997, as well as motorcycles registered before 1999. The law, which took effect July 1, will banish the older cars and motorcycles during the weekdays, all in an attempt to quell the city’s chronic pollution.

Motorists claim the law discriminates against the city’s poor people and the working class. They also want those affected by the ban to gather at a specified place “in memory of the principal of equality” and openly defy the law.

Dr. Peter Steer, the chief executive for Great Ormond Street hospital, and a proponent of Kahn’s plan, called the mayor’s decision “fantastic news.” He went on to say that children living in the city “are four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood, yet improving air quality has been shown to halt and reverse this effect.”

Kahn’s critics are not so optimistic about the ban, suggesting it would have to include all vehicles produced and sold after 2005 as well to make any kind of dent in London’s pollution.

“We all want to tackle NO2 emissions but most vehicles built after 2005 perform just as poorly as those built before so the cut-off date is meaningless,” Tony Devenish, a Conservative member of the London assembly, told reporters. “Small business owners and ‘white van drivers’ with older company vehicles will effectively be taxed for travelling into the capital to work – that cannot be right.”

Khan was elected mayor in May despite a rough campaign by England’s Conservative Party, which attempted to tie the West’s first Muslim mayor to terrorism and extremists. He was elected, in part, based on a promise he made to environmentalist to become the country’s “greenest mayor.”

The vehicle ban is likely a sop to the green movement in London.

“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.” To make sure Londoners don’t die, Hamid added, the mayor needs to create a Clean Air Zone, or a type of blanket around the city.

Kahn assured anti-oil activists last year fossil fuel divestment was one of the top issues on his plate.

“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.

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