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Boris Johnson’s prize for reducing pollution criticised by campaigners



The mayor of London Boris Johnson has won a prestigious award for efforts to improve air quality in the city through low-emission taxis and a new carbon accounting standard, but the prize has been criticised by the opposition and pressure groups that noted London is still far from having clean air.

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The prize was among the City Climate Leadership Awards 2014, organised by Siemens and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40). The event rewards “cities all over the world for excellence in urban sustainability and leadership in the fight against climate change”.

London was among the rewarded cities despite its air quality coming under scrutiny for not complying with EU regulations. Recently, it was revealed that the city would not meet air quality standards until 2030.

But London was praised for its new low-emissions taxi scheme, thought to reduce emissions by more than 75% compared to old taxis, and a new carbon accounting standard.

Speaking to the Guardian, Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s senior adviser on environmental and energy issues, said, “We are the first to accept that air quality is a challenge. People accuse of us not doing anything, but I think anyone reasonable would say that Boris Johnson is doing everything he can to improve air quality in the capital.”

Johnson met criticism after labelling a study from King’s College, which suggested that London’s Oxford street was the most polluted in the world, as ‘bollocks’.

The award was met with scepticism by the Green Party’s Darren Johnson, who noted how Johnson promotes climate sceptic views and fracking, while opposing renewable energy.

Clean Air in London described the winning of the award as “laughable”. Director of the group Simon Birkett said, “The reality of Boris’s taxi strategy is that are drivers forced to buy one of two large, relatively expensive diesel vehicles because they are the only ones meeting the anachronistic 25 foot turning circle requirement

“There is an urgent need for action to save, support and transform the London taxi industry. At the stroke of a pen he should remove the turning circle requirement and allow drivers to buy mass market petrol and other low emission vehicles at a fraction of the current cost of a taxi.”

Photo:  Financial Times via Flickr

Further reading:

Labour promises air pollution crackdown

London’s Oxford Street has ‘world’s highest’ levels of diesel fumes

Urban air quality ‘deteriorating’ – with pollution in nine UK cities above safe levels

Boris Johnson: pay motorists to scrap their diesel cars

MPs launch inquiry into air quality improvement