Scheme will cover North and South Circular roads, as well as capital’s centre, in 2021
The scheme, which will see the most polluting vehicles charged for entering the centre of the capital from April next year, will be extended to the North Circular and South Circular roads in 2021.
Clean air campaigners said the move would improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people, although some called for the wider clean-air zone to be introduced earlier.
Air pollution contributes to 40,000 deaths a year in the UK and causes long-term health problems for hundreds of thousands of people. It disproportionately affects children and poorer Londoners.
Khan said: “Tackling London’s lethal air and safeguarding the health of Londoners requires bold action. Air pollution is a national health crisis and I refuse to stand back as thousands of Londoners breathe in air so filthy that it shortens our life expectancy, harms our lungs and worsens chronic illness.”
Unveiling the plans at a London primary school on Friday, the London mayor announced a four-year study looking at the impact of toxic air on the health of 3,000 primary schoolchildren.
The project, led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London, will compare the health of children in the capital with those in polluted areas of Luton where there is no low-emission zone planned.
Children are especially vulnerable to traffic pollution, with evidence showing stunted lung growth in polluted areas worldwide, leaving them at risk of lifelong breathing disorders and earlier death. Pollution also triggers asthma, asthma attacks and chest infections.
Once the zone is extended to the North Circular and South Circular, it will cover a huge area of London, and officials estimate 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries will be affected per day.
It will also include a “particulate matter standard”, after the Guardian revealed every part of London exceeds World Health Organization air quality guidelines for PM2.5 – the most dangerous particulate.
Paul Morozzo, a clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “It’s going to have a huge impact on air quality and make a real difference to Londoners’ quality of life. London is leading the way in tackling harmful air pollution.”
The government is being taken to the European court of justice for failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, and Morozzon said its response to the crisis had been “shameful”.
“The government must fund and support cities around the country to offer the same level of protection as London. People everywhere have a right to breathe clean air,” he said.
Environment lawyers at ClientEarth, which has defeated the government three times over its air pollution plans, said “political leaders across the UK should take note”.
But James Thorton, the organisation’s chief executive, said the London mayor should go further. “A stronger, bigger ultra-low emission zone, brought in sooner, would be key to tackling the illegal and harmful levels of air pollution found across the whole of Greater London,” he said.