Expanding London’s ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez) is now a “key frontier” in the global fight against climate change, Sadiq Khan has said.
The Mayor of London has called on the environmental lobby to come out more strongly in favour of the controversial policy, saying climate change deniers will be “emboldened” if it fails.
Speaking at an event in central London on Monday evening, Mr Khan said: “The causes of climate change and air pollution are the same. If you reduce air pollution, you also reduce carbon emissions.”
Mr Khan’s plan to expand the Ulez to cover the whole of Greater London has been opposed by Conservatives, who argue it is unnecessary and will place financial strain on people in outer London and beyond.
But Mr Khan said that while some Londoners had “genuine concerns”, others had “latched on to the Ulez to push their own agenda”.
He said: “This includes a relatively small but well organised group of climate deniers and vested interests who are playing the genuine concerns of Londoners because they sense an opportunity to put a dent in the drive towards greater climate action.”
He added: “If these climate delayers were to win, the message it would send out to politicians and governments around the world is that bold climate action is simply not worth it. It’s not possible, it’s not politically achievable.
“Right now, London is a beacon for climate action. Other cities look to us for leadership. So if we were to fail to successfully deliver the Ulez expansion, the ripple effect would be huge.”
Arguing that failing to expand the Ulez could have global consequences, Mr Khan said the row had become “one of the key frontiers in the fight for climate action”.
Monday’s event, hosted by the Green Alliance think tank, also saw prominent green Conservative Chris Skidmore come out in favour of the Ulez expansion.
Appearing on stage with the mayor, Mr Skidmore said: “(Ulez) is a policy initiative that we need in order to demonstrate how we are going to save the lives of Londoners and their children and allow people to grow up in safe, pollution-free environments.
“It’s no different from the congestion charge, it’s no different from the early stages of Ulez. People may complain, people may oppose, but eventually you win the argument.”
The Bristol MP, who chaired an independent review of net zero policies commissioned by then-prime minister Liz Truss, stressed the need to listen and engage with opponents of Ulez in order to bring them on board.
Speaking with reporters after the event, Mr Khan hit back at his predecessor Boris Johnson, who has supported a legislative proposal that would effectively remove the mayor’s power to impose the Ulez expansion.
He said: “I’m gobsmacked that he has the audacity and chutzpah to suggest that I shouldn’t have the powers to clean up the air.
“I think I shouldn’t have the powers to buy water cannons that I can’t use. I don’t think I should have the powers to spend £40 million on a vanity project and a bridge that goes to nowhere.”
He added: “I should have the powers to address the twin challenges of the climate emergency and air quality and I think Londoners agree with me.”