Air pollution is a public health emergency and this is the time for action and clear commitments says Graham Petersen from Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council
BWTUC, the South West London arm of the national TUC, has agreed to launch a major campaign for clean air in Wandsworth as figures for Nitrogen Dioxide emissions in Putney shows that the annual average for 2016 is three times the legal limit of 40ug/m3.
BWTUC will seek to work with political and other civic bodies in the borough, to galvanise support for action by government and others to reduce emissions of pollution harmful to human health and restore clean air in all parts of the borough. In particular BWTUC will work with affiliated trades unions to get action from employers to help cut emissions.
Graham Petersen, a Tooting resident and union activist heading up the campaign for BWTUC, said "In last week’s local Guardian newspaper, Council leaders claimed that Putney ‘pollution levels have actually fallen in recent years."
BWTUC assessment of the statistics indicates that this statement fails to provide the full picture. There has been an improvement in pollution levels since 2011 but this appears to have stalled for some measurements. The figures from Kings College London for Nitrogen Dioxide show that the improvement has levelled out since 2014. For the last 3 years there has been no improvement in the mean average. The annual average for 2016 remained at over 3x the 40 ug/m3 limit.²The clean bus zone may finally start to make a difference this year but it needs to be rolled out rapidly to other parts of the borough.
Air quality is a major public health issue. We will support positive actions proposed by the Council but we will not hesitate to challenge the policies and actions when they fail to recognise the scale of the problem.
This applies to our approach towards the Greater London Authority and the Government. For example, it is our view that the Mayor’s proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone is very welcome but does not extend far enough. Large parts of the borough, like Tooting, that have serious air pollution would not be covered.
As for the Government, there has been a complete lack of leadership. ‘The Government’s failure to get to grips with the challenge of air pollution is evident to all of us’. This is an editorial statement from the Evening Standard (20/3/17) and one we would endorse.
Another group that needs to up its game is employers. Most of the toxic air we breathe is a product of work or workers travelling to work. Yet employers are often ignored when it comes to demands for action and should be doing far more to reduce their direct and indirect emissions.
BWTUC will support workers who want to act on pollution as a workplace issue. We are assisting local unions to carry out monitoring of pollution levels where they work. We will also be producing on line training modules to raise awareness this summer.