New City of London Corporation figures show a 42% drop in Square Mile nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels since 2016.
The statistics, confirmed by air quality monitors at Beech Street, The Aldgate School and Walbrook Wharf, show a year-on-year improvement over the last five years, due to a range of air quality measures in place and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Square Mile air quality is expected to improve further, helped by the City Corporation’s Air Quality Strategy, which aims for over 90% of the City to meet the 2005 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for nitrogen dioxide by 2025.
And its Climate Action Strategy, which commits the organisation to achieve net zero carbon for its own operations by 2027 and to support the achievement of net zero for the whole Square Mile by 2040, will also cut air pollution through a range of decarbonisation work.
The data were revealed as its Port Health and Environmental Services Committee agreed to commission new research to help cut City particulate matter – known as PM2.5 and PM10 – following tough new guidelines published by the WHO in September.
The City Corporation will use the research findings to develop new air quality plans to reduce local sources of the pollutant.
Particulate matter can have a serious impact on human health, causing heart attacks, asthma, and bronchitis, and it can also contribute to global warming.
Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environmental Services Committee, Keith Bottomley, said: “These statistics show a very welcome improvement in air quality but there is still a lot of work to do. Air pollution remains a public health crisis in the capital, and the latest WHO guidelines show that it has a greater impact on health than previously thought. Our plans are focused on continued improvement in air quality year on year.
“We will take bold and practical actions to eradicate toxic air, raise community awareness and reduce exposure in the Square Mile and City and wider London.”
The City Corporation is already taking a number of ambitious measures to combat toxic air in London, including banning new diesel vehicles from its fleet, where there is a clean market alternative, and leading a London-wide crackdown on drivers who leave their engines idling when parked.
Its CityAir app gives over 35,000 Londoners low pollution travel routes with advice and alerts when air pollution is high.
And its emissions-based charges for on-street parking in the Square Mile targets high polluting transport with higher charges, while rewarding drivers of low emission vehicles with lower tariffs.