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Leon Kaye headshot

London’s Mayor Urges German Automakers to Contribute to Air Quality Fund

By Leon Kaye

Last week, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, called out Germany's leading automakers, urging them to contribute to the city’s Air Quality Fund. Khan has argued that diesel vehicles manufactured by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have been contributing to London’s worsening air pollution and as a result, increased public health problems.

Khan noted that those companies have promised to contribute to several low emissions and "smart cities" projects in Germany, including a “Sustainable Mobility Fund for Cities” funded by that country’s government. Germany’s big 3 automakers have reported contributed $292 million dollars to that fund. But the mayor claimed that when he asked VW representatives to do the same in an attempt to help clean up London’s air, their response was that they had empty pockets.

“In July, the UK managing director of VW sat in my office and said they couldn’t contribute anything to fund cleaning up London’s air, but their German colleagues are providing money. Londoners will find that unacceptable,” Kahn said in a public statement.

Meanwhile, across the pond, VW is funding millions of dollars in zero-emission transport and smart mobility projects; such plans in California alone are costing VW $200 million.

Now Mayor Khan wants these automakers to pay the piper and do their part to help with London’s air quality woes.

German automakers in total have about 25 percent of the United Kingdom’s market share, depending on the source cited. Meanwhile, London’s air pollution keeps increasing; according to a recent study, particular matter (PM2.5) has reached a rate 50 percent higher in most areas of the city, and much of that surge is attributed to diesel vehicles. Nitrous oxides (NOx) have also been harming London’s air; the mayor’s office has estimated that half of all NOx emissions in the city is due to road transportation, and 90 percent of those emissions are from diesel vehicles.

Therefore, the logic follows that considering the profits these companies have generated from London and across the U.K., they should help local officials tackle this stubborn problem.

Khan’s administration says it has launched several initiatives in attempting to roll back London’s pollution problems. The aforementioned Air Quality Fund is a $26 million plan to launch various low-emission technologies and strategies across various city neighborhoods. Later this month, vehicles that do not meet tougher emissions standards will be subjected to a congestion charge, or “T-Charge.” Nevertheless, the mayor would like to see automakers have some skin in the game.

“I am taking bold action to clean up London’s toxic air, but I can’t do it alone,” said Khan. “The Government must act urgently to secure a meaningful amount of funding from these manufacturers, which could help people to scrap the most polluting diesel vehicles and take these off our streets.”

Image credit: David Holt/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye