The Necessity of the T-Charge | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Necessity of the T-Charge

The environment needs to get back on the political agenda, argues Comment Writer Rahim Mohamed

The claims being made by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a means to justify his new T-charge of £10 per day on high polluting vehicles are hard to ignore: 9,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor quality air, children in London have underdeveloped lungs and adults’ conditions such as asthma, dementia and strokes have direct links to the city’s poor air quality.  The most striking statistic that I came across was that this year, London managed to breach its annual legal limit on air pollution in just 5 days

Undeniably, a risk to Londoners’ health exists and measures such as the T-charge show that policy makers at least have an awareness of this.

9,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor quality air

And yet, the primary focus is not how this will benefit London’s air pollution levels but instead how punitive this policy will be on those too poor to upgrade their vehicle to a more environmentally friendly one. This points to three things: first, policy makers will inevitably face resistance to any hard-line approach adopted to tackle damage to the environment.  Secondly, to show that they are serious about protecting the environment, more will need to be done and interest groups other than those easiest to target (in this case, the less well off) will have to be taken on.  Third, measures being rolled out presently have hardly been ground-breaking and seem to do little to address a threat which has been around for a long time.  

This third point is worth dwelling on as the fact of the matter is, environmental damage is no longer that high up on the agenda.  I remember my GCSE Geography teacher sitting us down in 2006 to watch extracts from the film An Inconvenient Truth which had just been released. It was really forcing people to take note of the impact that global warming was having on our planet.  Among the claims made in this film was that rising temperatures on Earth are contributing to stronger storms.  Well, fast forward over a decade and Hurricane Irma, which devastated the Caribbean and the southern states of the US, had ‘top wind speeds tied with the second-strongest maximum winds of all time for an Atlantic hurricane’ .

I struggled to recall any mention of global warming in association with Irma in the mainstream media, but digging deeper I found this headline in the New Scientist magazine: ‘Hurricane Irma‘s epic size is being fuelled by global warming’.

So often used as a buzzword and something that gave different countries a common goal to work towards, global warming does not feature in news headlines or key political debate as much as it should.  It seems to have given way to other, more inward-looking issues.  

Global warming does not feature in news headlines or key political debate as much as it should

Alarmingly, countries only have bandwidth for themselves. For example Brexit, independence referenda and most apt: President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy which has seen America announce that it will be leaving the Paris climate accord on the basis that it harms their economy .

This culture of short-termism and nationalist sentiment has gripped the world, crowding out room for those issues such as global warming that impact us all.  Sadiq Khan’s plan offers encouragement to the extent that at least we can be reassured that the environment is on the radar, but is also a reminder that we are a long way from where we need to be.

Postgraduate student studying Political Science at the University of Birmingham


11th November 2017 at 12:30 pm

Images from

Garry Knight