Testing vehicles in London

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The Real Urban Emissions Initiative in London.

I fully admit that not everyone would find standing on the side of a busy road in London, in the cold whilst lorries, buses and cars go roaring past exciting. In fact, for most of us it’s such an everyday occurrence to share our lives with all those vehicles, that it pretty much passes unnoticed.

Those vehicles are however much harder to ignore when it comes to the quality of our air or the resultant state of our health. The dangerous gases they emit are extremely bad for our health and the health of our children, and there are more poisonous emissions coming out of the tailpipe than most of those who make the vehicles choose to admit.

Horrible though it is to believe, 300 million children around the world currently live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times. 2 billion live in areas which exceed the minimum air quality limit for PM10 – a measure of the volume of fine particulate matter in the air. Air pollution contributes to diseases that account for almost 1 in 10 of all deaths of children under the age of five. For example, almost one million children die from pneumonia each year (which accounts for up to 16 per cent of all under-five deaths), more than half of which (nearly 600,000) are directly related to air pollution (including both outdoor and indoor sources). Not all air pollution comes from vehicles, but in most cities the largest part does.

That is why I was so delighted to be in Putney last week whilst the Real Urban Emissions Initiative (TRUE) undertook some real-world emissions testing of vehicles in an area of London which has hitherto been well known for its air pollution problem. TRUE is undertaking this real world testing in London, Paris and Berlin, using state-of-the-art remote sensing equipment.

The TRUE initiative emerged from the recent scandal of VW cheating on emissions testing – now known as Dieselgate - as a way of ensuring that policymakers, consumers and manufacturers are made fully aware of what the vehicles we are driving on our roads are really emitting into the air. The initiative, which is backed by the C40 cities initiative, the Global NCAP road safety initiative and Transport and Environment (T&E), and delivered by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), will report from London in the late Spring - and all of the results will be openly available and transparent.

The video below tells you a little more about the testing process being used in London, and conveys some of my excitement at seeing this work in action. We will be reporting from all of our test cities as the work progresses, so watch this space for more information on the work.