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London and Milan mayors come together to improve air quality in cities


The Mayor of London and Chair of C40 Cities, Sadiq Khan, and Mayor of Milan and C40 Vice Chair for Europe, Giuseppe Sala, will convene a roundtable of experts to explore opportunities to address the global crises of air pollution, congestion and the climate emergency. The roundtable will focus on the ways to implement sustainable measures, such as low emission zones, in cities to address toxic air pollution.

Tackling global toxic air is a top priority for Mayor Khan as C40 chair. Today he is launching the C40 Green and Healthy Streets Leadership Forum, designed to bring together mayors to accelerate the implementation of policies that will lead to zero emission areas by 2030 and give them a platform to engage, raise collective ambitions and overcome political barriers. From Barcelona to Bogotá, London to Los Angeles and Medellín to Milan, 14 cities are part of the Forum which transpired following discussions at the Transport and Air Quality Summit that took place in London in July 2022 and a mayoral roundtable, attended by 14 cities, that took place at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Buenos Aires in October 2022. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost all of the world’s population (99%) is exposed to air that exceeds safe levels as determined by the WHO, putting their health at risk*. Those in low and middle-income countries facing the highest levels of exposure. Toxic air can cause significant damage and major health problems including heart and lung disease and asthma. With more than half of the global population living in urban areas, cities play a key role in the fight against air pollution and the climate crisis. 

Cities around the world are taking steps to improve air quality and public health while addressing the climate crisis. Today C40 has published its new Clean Air Accelerator report which shows that approximately 227 million people across the signatory cities will benefit from cleaner air and improved health due to the action cities are taking through C40’s Clean Air Accelerator. Key to many of their plans is the promotion of walking, cycling and public transport. Twenty-three C40 cities currently have an operational low emission zone. 

Both London and Milan are taking ambitious, science-driven action to improve air quality. London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is now 18 times the size of the original area and covers 4 million people – over a third of London’s population — and has reduced NO2 concentrations in Central London by 44 percent and Inner London by 22 percent; the ULEZ is set to expand to cover all boroughs in Greater London in August 2023 bringing cleaner air to 5 million more people. Around 85 percent of vehicles in outer London meet the ULEZ standards and nearly half of London households do not own a car but are disproportionately feeling the damaging consequences that polluting vehicles cause.  Mayor Khan is doing all he can to support Londoners, which is why the expansion will be accompanied by a £110m scrappage scheme to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled Londoners, charities and small businesses and sole traders. The Mayor also announced measures to support disabled people, including extending the existing exemption periods for London’s disabled drivers and community transport minibuses run by not-for-profit organisations to October 2027 and October 2025 respectively, and introducing new exemption periods for disabled drivers and wheelchair accessible vehicles.

In Milan, the Area B Low Emission Zone (LEZ) came into force in February 2019, banning high-polluting vehicles from an area covering 70 percent of the city. The standard that vehicles must meet will progressively increase to 2030. 

Mayor of London and Chair of C40 Cities, Sadiq Khan, said: “Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis in many of our cities – leading to premature death and chronic disease. As Chair of C40 Cities, I am committed to working collaboratively across national borders and city boundaries to tackle air pollution, congestion and the climate emergency. Air pollution claims the lives of an estimated seven million people across the globe each year. I’m glad to welcome Mayor Sala to London to collaborate on how mayors can work together to tackle this global crisis. I commend him for tackling congestion and air pollution through Milan’s ambitious Area B low emission zone. In London, to help drive down emissions and protect people’s health, we are expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone to cover all of London, which will mean five million more Londoners will be able to breathe cleaner air.”

Mayor of Milan and C40 Vice Chair for Europe, Giuseppe Sala, said: “I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Khan in London and discuss our shared commitment to tackling the urgent challenge of the climate crisis, congestion and toxic air pollution. By working together and sharing our experiences we can make a real difference globally. In Milan, I have introduced the Area B Low Emission Zone – an incremental policy that prevents polluting vehicles from circulating in over 70 percent of the city territory. This is possible because of the long-term investment in extending and improving public transportation, as well as thanks to measures that support access to transportation and dedicate subsidies and grant exceptions to citizens in the most equitable way. I am determined to work closely with my fellow mayors, improving air quality for my residents in Milan and helping to combat the climate crisis.”

Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive Officer Asthma and Lung UK, said: “Toxic air is a public health emergency – it damages our lungs and our health, stunts our children’s lung growth and causes tens of thousands of early deaths every year. If we’re going to protect future generations from growing up breathing dirty air, it’s so important that we work collaboratively. I’m pleased to meet with the mayors of Milan and London so we can all learn from one another to achieve cleaner air in our cities.”

Dr Audrey de Nazelle, said: “Research shows how ambitious policies to reduce vehicle emissions in cities can bring so many benefits to population health and quality of life, even beyond cleaner air and climate mitigation. Mayors Khan and Sala have an essential role to play in leading the way with action, helping people envision and understand the beauty of cities made for people rather than cars.”

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