With the Olympic Games due to start in August 2012, we face the prospect of a heavy fine from the International Olympic Committee, should we continue to transgress air pollution laws. The Government and Olympic committee had set goals hoping these Games would be the greenest ever and the possibility of a fine approaching £174m is causing major embarrassment to officials.
In terms of an agreement with the IOC, signed by the London mayor and the government in 2005, a quarter of the broadcasting revenue, expected to exceed £650m, can be withheld by the IOC, if EU air quality limits are exceeded during the Games. Although the EU has granted an extension, a solution has still to be found to reduce levels of small particulate matter (PM10), and the city faces a £300m fine this year.
Being one of the most polluted cities in Europe, London will need to cut traffic levels by more than 25% for a four week period, and the banning of cars with registrations ending in even and odd numbers on different days is envisaged. Pollution from traffic causes more deaths than traffic accidents and passive smoking combined.
The increased traffic emissions on the Olympic road network during the games will increase pollution and exceed the limits in areas already under strain, according to the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SAE), and the 25% cut may not be sufficient to reduce emissions to within the legal limit.
London has little option but to impose the motor vehicle registration ban through the city in order for marathon and other endurance events to be held, say lawyers, reminding us that at the last Olympic Games in Beijing, officials banned over 1 million motor cars and closed factories in an effort to reduce pollution. The SAE has shown that there is a real possibility of the air quality laws being broken during the Games.
Alan Andrews of Client Earth, says the Government and the Mayor are placing themselves in a difficult position should they ignore these risks and there will be no choice but to evoke bans similar to those in Beijing. Director of Campaign for Clean Air, Simon Birkett, says older diesel vehicles should be banned from central London.
The city has a problem with plans to create a zero-waste Games being reduced, the athlete’s village smaller and greater efforts and co-operation are required to overcome these difficulties.