All but a handful of vehicles belonging to Tower Hamlets Council are diesel powered, despite the council declaring a climate emergency and claiming to support community health.
A Freedom of Information request submitted by Tower Hamlets Conservative Party revealed that 187 out of the 201 vehicles owned by the authority had diesel engines. Environmental groups have now called on the council to ‘green’ its vehicle fleet as soon as possible.
Nick Stovold, the former Conservative Party candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow at the General Election last week, told Eastlondonlines: “If a council declares a Climate Emergency, which any sane person accepts is indeed the case, they shouldn’t be running 95% of their vehicles on diesel.”
By using these vehicles, the council appear to be contradicting their own policies and programmes, for example, the controversial Liveable Streets policy which aims to curb air pollution by reducing traffic intensity in the area, and the Breathe Clean scheme that also tries to reduce vehicle air pollution.
Despite incentives for motorists to switch to diesel under Gordon Brown, the government and scientists now tend to have an anti-diesel agenda.
Although diesel cars tend to emit less carbon dioxide than petrol cars, they release a higher proportion of Nitrogen oxide (NO2).
Research suggests NO2 emissions from diesel can lead to lung and respiratory problems, skin and eye irritation, and fatigue and nausea.
Dr Jackie Applebee, a local GP involved in a Tower Hamlets campaign against pollution told Eastlondonlines: “Tower Hamlets air is massively polluted and Tower Hamlets children have significantly lower lung capacity than those in areas with less major roads.”
“We all have a responsibility to do all we can, but governments, both local, national and international have to do far, far more, right now … they will say that cuts to local authorities tie their hands, but they need to be far bolder and stop hiding behind these obstacles.”
A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Tower Hamlets told Eastlondonlines: “Tower Hamlets Council deserves credit for acting as a leader in local government by declaring a climate crisis early. But these figures highlight the potential for a disjuncture between rhetoric and reality. The acid test of the Council’s commitment will be whether it can put in place and execute on a plan to green its fleet of vehicles.”
Hospital admissions for asthma for young people aged 19 and under in Tower Hamlets are 192.9 per 100,000. This is well over both the London and national averages.
NO2 also has an adverse effect on air pollution.
Currently, 15 per cent of residents are exposed to NO2 levels that exceed the EU limit and 40 per cent live in areas which contravene EU and government air pollution guidelines.
Nationally, by 2040, the government plans to ban the sale of all diesel and petrol vehicles in an effort to curb air pollution across the UK.
Last month, Eastlondonlines reported that Tower Hamlets was one of the London boroughs predicted to be below sea levels, due to human induced climate change, by 2030.
Tower Hamlets Council were approached for comment but were unable to provide one at the time of publication.