Earth Day: Pandemic lockdown brings down air pollution by up to 70% in some London areas

·1-min read
A black cab pumps exhaust fumes into the air in south London (PA Archive)
A black cab pumps exhaust fumes into the air in south London (PA Archive)

Clean air campaigners today said lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic could help us slow climate change, as figures show there was up to 70 per cent less air pollution caused by vehicles during the first lockdown.

London pollution analysers yesterday estimated many areas, particularly in the centre and near busy roads such as the South Circular, had pollution levels between five and nine on the London Air Quality Network index- in the moderate to very high categories.

This time last year only one area reached more than a three, showing there were low levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Estimated air pollution levels on April 21 2021Clean Air London
Estimated air pollution levels on April 21 2021Clean Air London

Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London (CAL), speaking on Earth Day that promotes global climate action, he said: “What we saw last year was levels of nitrogen dioxide from road traffic fall very sharply.

“It was surprising how far it fell, at some point 60 to 70 per cent down on 2019, which shows how much diesel is contributing to air pollution.

Air pollution levels in London in April 2020Clean Air London
Air pollution levels in London in April 2020Clean Air London

“People have suddenly experienced it is nicer to live in an area with less air pollution and we’ve seen people cycling and walking more, which can only be a good thing.

“Areas with better air also were less hit by Covid, there are so many health implications and the pandemic has really highlighted that.”

Mr Birkett said that a new Clean Air Act should be passed, which would give local authorities more power they need to decarbonise areas to protect health.

This Earth Day year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth”, with people being urged to focus on reducing our impact on the planet following the Covid-19 pandemic and how we can repair our ecosystems.

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