Launch of London's T-charge shows commitment to action on air pollution

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We already know how dirty London's air is, we know how much harm that dirty air is doing to our health, and particularly that of our children, and that thousands of people are dying prematurely due to its effects. We know too that cars - particularly diesels - make a huge contribution to that air pollution in cities.

I landed at Heathrow the other evening and I was struck by how very big and beautiful London is - like a giant Xmas tree with strings of diamonds and rubies criss-crossing it. When you get down to ground level those glittering lights are vehicles, often in slow-moving traffic jams, and what you can't see are the tiny, destructive micro-particles and chemicals which emit from the exhausts of all of those vehicles, and enter our bodies and do great damage.

This huge health threat has to be dealt with, and London is not alone in struggling with this problem. Pretty much every city on the planet is in the same fix - and we need every policy tool we can get. It's a matter of life & death.

I applaud the Mayor of London's tough stand on air pollution, and I think the T-charge is a clear signal to the market and consumers of that determination to act.

We at the Real Urban Emissions Initiative - TRUE - are working with the GLA to test the emissions of vehicles as they drive on the roads of London. There is a huge amount of evidence that many makes and models emit far more toxic pollutants in use than we think, and this is one way to find out what is really going on & which are the most polluting vehicles. The data will be used to inform consumers as they purchase their next car. Who would argue with testing cars as they drive on our roads? No one wants to make the air their families are breathing worse. No one should have anything to hide.

There are several reasons why a car may emit more than it should. Sometimes it's a fault or poor maintenance, but sometimes it's cheating by the manufacturer - as the VW Dieselgate scandal showed - and that must be stopped. It is not a victimless crime. Recent research shows poor air quality is leaving our kids under threat of lifelong health problems. And it's not fair either - in London the very worst affected are often the most deprived, and the least likely to own a car themselves!

At the end of the day it's about transparency and reliable information, and trying to help consumers to understand more about the choices they are making - as well as enabling policy makers to have the most up to date information too.

So we have to work together on this tough challenge, of balancing the advantages that vehicles can bring against the problems they can cause, like dirty air. Cities like London and Paris are leading the way, and we are delighted to be working with them. The first results from London should be out early next year – watch this space.