BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
London’s pollution has been a big problem. Some of you may remember the news last month about London exceeding its air pollution limits for 2017 in just five days. Fortunately, they have now announced that they’ll be taking action against the worst offenders in order to get a handle on the pollution crisis that currently hangs over London and the entire U.K.
Starting on October 23, 2017, the new law will impose a fine of £10 ($16.39 CAD), called a “T-charge” (short for Toxicity Charge) for driving cars that do not meet the Euro 4 emissions standard. This includes most vehicles registered in Europe before 2006, according to The Guardian. The £10 fine will be added to the city’s Congestion Charge, which charges people £11.50 ($18.86 CAD) for driving in high-traffic areas during certain hours, so drivers may now have to pay up to £21.50 ($35.25 CAD) for driving in the city, depending on where, when, and what they’re driving.
If that sounds harsh, the consequences of London’s current pollution problem are even worse. According to The Guardian, air pollution is currently causing nearly 40,000 early deaths per year in the U.K., thousands of which happen in London. One doctor, Dr. Peter Steer, also told London’s mayor Sadiq Khan that “children living in highly polluted areas 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,” a finding that takes on extra significance when you consider that many schools in the city are in areas where pollution exceeds the legal limit.
London isn’t the only city to crack down on air pollution in this way. Paris has taken a similar but arguably stricter approach, banning cars registered before 1997 between 8:00 A.M and 8:00 P.M on weekdays, with a €35 ($48.56 CAD) fine for offenders. While London’s T-charges are estimated to affect about 10,000 vehicles, a French pro-automobile group called 40 millions d’automobilistes (40 Million Motorists) claims that the Paris law will affect nearly half a million vehicles.
It certainly is understandable that some will take issue with these restrictions on vehicles. There are especially valid criticisms pointing out that this will disproportionately affect people with lower incomes. Of course, one could argue that the health problems caused by pollution also affect them disproportionately, at least on a global scale. So we will need to wait and see what tangible effect this has on pollution in order to see whether this cost is worthwhile. That said, the increasing popularity and affordability of more eco-friendly cars means that even with these bans on heavily polluting vehicles, we probably aren’t headed towards a car-free society any time soon, even if that might be our best chance.