London’s New Tax Aims to Lower Pollution

London is the latest city to decide its skies are still too polluted. After efforts in recent years from fellow European cities (including a carless day in Paris in 2015) helped to raise awareness though little else, London has settled upon a plan to make a serious dent in its air pollution problem.

In recent years, London has raised its commuting rates to extremely high levels, but the city still feels not enough has been done. Now, it will add an incredible 13 dollar charge per day for older cars that don’t meet the most recent emissions standards. The price is surely designed to force owners of old cars to either buy new or else start commuting by public transportation.

The increasing pollution of major cities, even in the West, has lead many to demand greater and more drastic steps like those taken by London.

Though such drastic steps are popular in big cities across the West, including in America, such issues tend to fail on the macro scale of whole countries, in particular, America.

Recent steps from the Trump administration have, if anything, done the opposite of London’s new law, by removing clean air regulations on a number of industries.

At the same time, many industries are still willing to accommodate the demands of cities and are keeping up with regulations even if they are (or soon will be) rescinded by President Trump. Many are using novel new technology in order to bring their factories and other industrial businesses into compliance with recent US standards and those set by the Paris Accord (which President Trump has promised to back out of).

With renewable energy and natural gas producing increasingly larger amounts of America’s energy, some suggest the country may yet meet the Paris Accord demands regardless of White House policy.

None of that will come close to the plans of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, however. Khan hopes to put London on the path to being a zero-emissions city by 2040. While such ambitious plans may leave many skeptical, a number of London’s big steps are being followed by other cities.

Los Angeles and Seattle (and London) are among the 12 cities that have pledged to only buy zero-emission busses from 2025 onward. Los Angeles, in particular, is eager to improve its air quality, since it is the most polluted city in the US.

While the efforts of London and elsewhere have generally been lauded in principle, London’s new tax is not getting universal praise. The Conservatives have come out against the policy, suggesting it will disproportionately hit small business owners and the city’s shrinking poor population.

On the other side, many environmentalists feel the efforts, while moving in the right direction, are not doing enough to deal with London’s serious pollution issues. They would like to see far more extreme policies implemented.