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Islington is set to be London’s first diesel-free borough

London is rapidly phasing out the sale of new diesel cars, according to new figures shared by clean air campaigners. Analysis by the Clean Cities Campaign shows new diesel car sales in the capital are plummeting, with less than 8% of all new car registrations in London running on diesel in 2021, down from a fifth in 2019.

The data suggests Islington could be the first London borough to go ‘diesel-free’ with a total of just 6,818 diesel cars currently registered – the lowest of any borough. Less than a hundred diesel cars were purchased in the borough last year.

Islington introduced a “diesel surcharge” on residents’ parking permits in 2015 and other boroughs have adopted similar measures. Campaigners predict Islington could be free of new diesel cars within 12 months.

READ MORE:Woman fined £130 for driving on road she uses all the time

New anti-diesel campaign advert put up at Vauxhall ahead of local elections on May 5

Mums for Lungs campaigners are urging all boroughs ahead of local elections to go further by granting no new parking permits for diesel cars from 2023, exempting disabled blue badge holders. New billboards have been launched in Wandsworth demanding ‘The End of Diesel Fumes’ around schools in the borough.

The boroughs with the fewest diesel cars are mainly in Inner London, where registrations are lowest and where the Mayor of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone has been in place since April 2019. But campaigners are calling on some boroughs to Inner London to go “further and faster”.

Wandsworth is among those who have yet to introduce a diesel surcharge on residents’ permits. Diesel accounts for 28% of Wandsworth residents’ cars, putting it on par with Havering, Hillingdon and Hounslow on the outskirts of London, despite being within the ULEZ zone.

Sales of new electric batteries have now exceeded diesel sales, according to estimates. Over the last five years there has been a drop of almost 90% in the number of diesel cars purchased in the UK. But sales of gasoline-powered cars still far exceed hybrid or electric vehicles.

Recent research has shown that diesel cars in London cause three times more pollution than lorries and lorries, while analysis by researchers at Imperial College London this year found that air pollution contributed to over 1,700 hospitalizations for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in London between 2017 and 2019.

Oliver Lord, UK Clean Cities campaign manager, said: “After years of campaigning and industry smokescreens, the end is in sight for diesel cars. We’ll go a lot faster and save thousands more lives if we give them one last nudge in the junkyard.

“Local authorities must do all they can to encourage behavior, including ending parking permits for new diesel cars from next year and committing to phase out diesel by 2030 This would create an important milestone on the path to clean air and tackling the climate crisis.”

Professor Whitty and Sadiq Khan
Professor Chris Whitty and Sadiq Khan say tackling toxic air pollution is a top priority for the capital

Campaign group Mums for Lungs is calling on the four main parties in every borough to completely phase out all diesel parking permits by 2030 and make car parking emissions-responsive by 2023, with controlled parking zones in all parts of the capital.

David Nicholson, Wandsworth resident and member of Mums for Lungs, said: “15 years ago we ended cigarette smoking in pubs. Local councils must now put an end to diesel smoke in our communities contaminating the air we breathe.

“It’s particularly important to protect children, people with asthma and less well-off people who are forced to live next to busy roads.” A coalition of 28 campaign groups brought together by Mums for Lungs and the Clean Cities Campaign have signed a joint statement urging council candidates to commit to cleaning up London’s toxic air ahead of the May election, including phasing out the diesel cars.

Campaigners are calling on councils to back their diesel phase-out plans:

  1. No new parking permits for diesel cars from 2023 (exemption of blue badge holders), where controlled parking zones are enforced. Existing permits would remain

  2. Complete phase-out of diesel parking permits by 2030

  3. All paying car parks (e.g. parking meters) to take emissions into account by 2023

  4. A target to reduce on-street parking, including local car parks

  5. Work with the Business Investments Districts (BID) to reduce their emissions

  6. Establish controlled parking zones in the boroughs

Diesel car sales by borough, ranked from lowest to highest sales last year

Arrondissement Total registered cars Total diesel cars % of diesel cars New diesel cars registered in 2021 (estimated*)
islington 38,641 6,818 18% 69
Kingston on the Thames 60,697 15,769 26% 116
Hammersmith and Fulham 41,309 8,632 21% 121
Haringey 59 130 11,581 20% 132
Lewisham 75,657 14,035 19% 141
merton 70,931 17,433 25% 152
Hackney 45 106 8,733 19% 155
Tower hamlets 50,431 8,991 18% 176
sutton 77,305 18,571 24% 176
Newham 68,305 15,761 23% 177
Harrow 94,023 24,519 26% 181
Lambeth 62,973 12,324 20% 184
Richmond on the Thames 75,965 17,990 24% 185
Barking and Dagenham 71,484 20,289 28% 195
Wandsworth 52 128 16,088 28% 208
Greenwich 78 106 17 118 22% 209
Waltham Forest 55,024 15,052 27% 231
Southwark 56 175 10,315 18% 232
Kensington and Chelsea 39 209 8,551 22% 263
Brent 101,812 24,519 24% 263
westminster 55,024 9,349 17% 279
Ealing 115,500 29,508 26% 299
Redbridge 102,881 26,493 26% 312
Hounslow 95 151 27,331 29% 313
Enfield 120,783 29,357 24% 319
Croydon 146,092 35,445 24% 329
Camden 43,961 7,509 17% 360
Barnett 144,279 30 159 21% 392
Bromley 146,292 35,220 24% 459
Bexley 105 218 26,736 25% 516
To have 114,363 32,811 29% 608
Hillingdon 129,340 37,708 29% 707

*Estimates based on Ministry of Transport data for the third quarter of 2021, extrapolated to cover the whole year.

London frequently exceeds legal air pollution limits
London frequently exceeds legal air pollution limits, which can trigger asthma attacks and worse

To research by the Environmental Defense Fund (Europe) has shown that diesel is the biggest contributor of NOx/NO2 – the pollutant that inflames the lungs and is closely linked to asthma and wheezing in children. The government has promised that all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from sale by 2030.

London Greens Assemblyman Zack Polanski told MyLondon the move away from diesel must be done ‘fairly’: ‘People stuck with diesel cars being pushed by fake manufacturers claim they would be greener need more help to switch, either to cleaner cars or to better and cheaper public transport, with scrapping bonuses and real support for alternatives from the mayor and the government, and of each local council.”

Last month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Toxic air is extremely dangerous for Londoners and it’s important that we all do what we can to reduce the impact this can have on people. most vulnerable people. We can take care of each other by walking, cycling or taking public transport, and avoiding unnecessary car journeys.”

City Hall believes tackling air pollution should be a priority, with Sadiq Khan recently announcing plans to expand the current Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of London d ‘by the end of 2023. Nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to list air pollution as the cause of death in 2013. Commenting ahead of the event, her mother , Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, BreatheLife Ambassador and Founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, said: “The coroner’s inquest has shown beyond doubt that air pollution from traffic near our homes contributed to Ella’s severe asthma, and that without it Ella would still be alive today… In London, 8 to 12 children die of asthma each year. This is unacceptable, and it is time to act to save their lives.”

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