Nurses and health professionals have teamed up with doctors to call for Sadiq Khan to commit to phase out diesel vehicles from London. According to the campaign, nearly 40% of all nitrogen oxides emissions and PM10 pollution, which is linked to decreased lung function, within London comes from diesel vehicles.
Professor Jonathan Grigg, from Doctors Against Diesel, told the BBC that the main reason is due to health concerns regarding children and asthma: "Deaths from paediatric asthma are disproportionately much higher in London than the rest of Europe.
"Air pollution levels in London exceed legal limits and affect people's health at every stage of life. If we want to be serious about air pollution we need to be serious about diesel."
Their views are being taken on board. The Mayor of London has already said he wants to get rid of diesel buses by 2018.
A spokesman for the mayor said: “The mayor has more than doubled air quality funding [to £875 million over the next five years] and is doing everything in his power to tackle London's toxic air and rid the city of the most polluting vehicles, but he cannot do this alone.”
However he added that the mayor has no legal powers to ban cars in London and says the mayor is calling on the government "to face its responsibility and implement a national diesel scrappage scheme now".
Khan himself says he is lobbying ministers to give London more powers to tackle poor air quality. He told the Evening Standard: “With nearly 10,000 Londoners dying early every year due to air pollution, tackling poor air quality is a public health emergency that requires bold action.
“London’s air quality continues to breach legal levels, which is why I have taken this unprecedented action. The onus is now on the Government to prove that they share my ambition.”
The funding increase from £425 million for the period to 2021/22, detailed in the newly published Transport for London business plan, was welcomed by campaigners. One of them, Dr Samantha Walker from Asthma UK said: “It is clear that action is needed and we welcome the extra investment to help clean up the air we breathe.”
However a spokesman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the industry is investing "billions" to reduce emissions and the latest diesel cars are the "cleanest in history".
Figures released by SMMT claim emissions of nitrogen oxides have reduced by 84% since 2000 "thanks to exhaust after-treatments" while new "high tech" filters capture 99% of all soot particles from diesel engines.
The spokesman said: "Diesel makes a vital contribution to our everyday lives fuelling some 99% of the UK's commercial vehicles, which transport essential goods and our emergency services."
But Edmund King, president of the AA, called the proposal "fairly impractical".
He said: "We all want to clean up air quality but you've got to give time, you've got to give incentives.
"Yes get rid of the worst offenders but I think a blanket ban would just backfire."
Transport for London is currently consulting on proposals to improve air quality in the capital. The consultation, which closes on 18 December, can be viewed here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/environment/air-quality-consultation-phase-2/?cid=airquality-consultation
We are running a talk on the effect of air quality on health at our FREE event on 28 March. Book tickets here: https://www.jfhc.co.uk/jfh-briefing-2017/