The ‘Towards a Mayor4CleanAir’ hustings brought the four leading Mayoral candidates together last night to flaunt their green credentials and explain how they would reduce air pollution in London.
Luisa Porritt, the Liberal Democrat candidate, and Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate attended in person, however, Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan was represented by Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, and Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate, was represented by Conservative MP David Simmonds.
The Zoom hustings, joined by 500 people, was planned by several organisations including Mums for Lungs and the British Lung Foundation, to watch the candidates debate the dangers of air pollution, Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), the Silver Town Tunnel project, car dependency and wood burning.
Mums for Lungs founder, and of the event organisers Jemima Hartshorn said: “Most of the issues that need to be discussed when talking about air pollution came up and we were glad to learn of strong policies the candidates have to address this issue.”
We cut through the jargon and scored each candidate based on their performance last night:
SIAN BERRY, GREEN PARTY
OVERALL PITCH: Greens have a transformative, comprehensive plan to reduce air pollution and traffic.
SUMMARY: Berry is a veteran of climate campaigning and was the only candidate to propose a target to reduce air pollution. She put forward a transformative and bold vision for cleaning London’s air in tandem with international pollution targets.
With the main goal being to reduce the miles driven on the road, Berry promised to make the ULEZ London-wide and introduce a Clean Air Act in memory of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died of a fatal asthma attack because of air pollution in 2013.
Berry said the Greens would also introduce a new road pricing system, triple the cycle budget, and invest in alternative transportation infrastructure and green homes with solar panels.
She criticised any policy that encouraged car dependency and said public transport would expand into the suburbs with reduced fares for passengers from those areas.
Berry labelled the Silver Town Tunnel project a ‘disaster’, claiming it will generate more traffic and congestion.
BEST QUOTE: “This is one of those things where an Olympic-style effort is needed. And the reason we want to do it is to save lives, to make the city healthy, to keep the city safe, and to build a better world for the future.”
GREEN SCORE: 5/5
SADIQ KHAN, LABOUR PARTY REPRESENTED BY PHILIP GLANVILLE, HACKNEY MAYOR
OVERALL PITCH: Since becoming Mayor, Khan’s policies have already reduced air pollution and if re-elected will continue to deliver.
SUMMARY: Glanville irked the Green and Lib Dem candidates from the start by suggesting the election is a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives.
He emphasised Khan’s tangible achievements in reducing air pollution: the introduction of the ULEZ and expanding cycle routes around the city, with the result being a 94% reduction of Londoners living in areas with illegal nitrogen oxide levels.
Glanville also suggested air pollution was a social justice issue given it disproportionately affects lower-income and BAME Londoners and said ULEZ could expand along with additional cycle lanes, green taxi fleets, and green economic recovery from the pandemic.
He listed Khan’s achievements in the office such as the introduction of hopper fairs helping commuters and promised to maintain investments in public transport. However, Glanville defended the Silver Town Tunnel project and claimed it could reduce congestion and ensure the expansion of the ULEZ.
QUOTE: “We can’t allow this health crisis to be replaced with another if we don’t tackle air pollution and climate change.”
GREEN SCORE: 3/5
LUISA PORRITT, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
OVERALL PITCH: Incentivise Londoners to make better choices and discourage car usage.
SUMMARY: Porritt proposes a straightforward plan that aims to reduce air pollution by encouraging Londoners to embrace alternative methods of transportation that are less polluting than cars.
Porritt proposed scrapping current flat-rate charges, such as for the ULEZ, and replace it with a road pricing system that embraces modern technology and charges based on distance travelled.
The goal is to discourage unnecessary car use, and finance the expansion of transport services into suburbs, expand cycle lanes and purchase zero-emission buses on red routes by 2024.
She was firmly against Silver Town Tunnel development, believing it is an incentive for road use and believes resources should be spent on ‘green roofs’, public transportation infrastructure, and building zero-carbon homes. There was also an emphasis on promoting cycling and electric vehicles, and cargo bikes for delivery companies.
BEST QUOTE: “It should not have taken the death of a child to put this issue so high on the agenda, frankly. There are more than 9,000 premature deaths from our poor air quality in London already and it is the next generation who suffers the most from this.“
GREEN SCORE: 3/5
SHAUN BAILEY, CONSERVATIVES – REPRESENTED BY DAVID SIMMONDS MP
OVERALL PITCH: Reducing air pollution does not have a one-size-fits-all approach, and the next Mayor must focus on outcome, not strategy.
SUMMARY: Simmonds highlighted an approach to reducing emissions that were realistic rather than bold.
The Conservatives promise to introduce a fleet of zero-emission buses by 2025, encourage logistics companies to invest in green delivery vehicles, and expand the transport network into car-reliant suburbs.
To deal with the present air pollution levels Simmonds proposed cleaning indoor quality around London with better filtration in new homes and on the London underground.
To reduce congestion around the city he said Bailey would support the Silver Town Tunnel project and also scrap ULEZ due to the fact poorer Londoners are disproportionately affected by such schemes.
Other ideas he put forward were pavements that generated electricity and using local hydroelectric power and encouraging green investment.
BEST QUOTE: “We know that lower-income Londoners are often dependent on older vehicles, and therefore some of these charging schemes essentially make London a place where only the very affluent can travel”
GREEN SCORE: 1/5
Before and after the event, viewers were asked to vote on who they thought was the most reliable candidate to deliver cleaner air for Londoners, these are the results:
The Mayor of London and the London Assembly elections will take place on Thursday 6 May and a record 20 candidates have put their names in the hat.
You can read all about them here.