London-style low-emission zones are the answer to the “extraordinarily bad” air pollution in Dublin city centre, according to a Social Democrats TD.
Dublin Central TD Gary Gannon is warning that the inner city is “riddled” with air pollution, noting that the people living there suffer more respiratory problems than anywhere else in the country.
He was speaking after new figures from the Google Air Smart Dublin study found that air pollution in Phibsborough is way above the EU limit.
Under EU Air Quality Directives, countries have an air pollution limit of 40 μg/m3 of nitrogen dioxide an hour on average over a year.
The Google study shows that Phibsborough junction is hitting levels 60 μg/m3.
World Health Organisation guidelines call for a limit of just 10 μg/m3.
“It’s extraordinarily bad,” Deputy Gannon told Newstalk Breakfast.
“Air quality, particularly from polluting vehicles going through Phibsborough has resulted in us exceeding the EU Air Quality directive limits by very, very significant amounts.
“Essentially, that traffic that is coming through Phibsborough down on to the quays around it is polluting the air completely.”
He said the study focused on nitrogen dioxide which largely comes from car exhaust fumes.
“We absolutely should be looking at a polluter pays [system],” he said.
“I think we need to look at what they’re doing in London at the minute, which is low-emission zones
“They’re widening the expansion of the low-emission zones so if your car is one that pollutes - has a higher level of polluting emissions than other cars - you pay a fine and a fee.”
He admitted that congestion charges have their own problems – noting that there would need to be incentives for people on low incomes and those that need to drive for work.
“I do think we’re at the point now where nobody has the right to pollute - to poison essentially - other people,” he said.
“Respiratory problems around Phibsborough - actually around the city centre in general in Dublin 1 - are the highest in the country.”
"We have to be brave"
He said he understands that congestion charges are not a popular proposition but insisted it is time for politicians to “be brave”.
“I’m representing a constituency where we have an inequity of clean air,” he said. “We have to be brave and we have to call it for what it is.”
Deputy Gannon said the charges in London only affected around one in nine cars.
“It won’t actually impact on everybody; it is trying to transition away from the dirtier fuels – the diesel cars, the lorries, the ones that are dirtier,” he said.
“The SUVs – we have to take them out of the city. Nobody has a right to poison anybody else and that is reality we are facing.
“I get the fact that it is somewhat brave in the political climate we are in to be calling for emission zones but let’s just do it. We need to be brave.”