08 Oct 20

How Formula E, Sam Bird and Mayor Sadiq Khan teamed up to tackle London's air pollution

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Formula E driver Sam Bird visited a Newham school in East London back in January to throw their weight behind the fight for clean air in the capital, which plays host to the British round on the ABB FIA Formula E Championship calendar.

Salisbury Primary School welcomed Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and then-Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird, accompanied by the Formula E Gen2 race car, in January this year. 


Pupils were given the chance to see the car up close as well as hear from Londoner Bird – winner of nine E-Prix during his Formula E career – about how the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is helping to innovate electric vehicle technology and support London’s electric vehicle revolution.

The school is one of 200 London schools located in areas of high air pollution putting in place measures to protect pupils from toxic air following an air quality audit by the Mayor.

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Bird highlighted the importance to Formula E of being a catalyst for change, addressing air pollution and helping to create a cleaner future, faster.

“It was great to visit Salisbury Primary School with the Mayor of London to raise awareness of both the championship and the future of electric vehicles,” said Bird. “It was really inspiring to see that this topic is so important to the next generation too, with the children of Salisbury Primary working hard to make a change for the better.”

London's air quality audit

Five of London’s most polluted boroughs – Newham, Islington, Southwark, Westminster and Brent – have committed to extend the Mayor’s air quality audit programme to help cut pollution in their schools. 

Under the Mayor’s scheme, detailed air quality audits were carried out in 50 schools across 23 London boroughs. The audits assessed the air quality in some of the capital’s worst polluted schools and made a series of recommendations to protect pupils.

As part of the programme, the Mayor issued a £1 million fund which provided each of the 50 audited schools with a £10,000 starter grant and enabled any of the other London schools located in areas exceeding legal air pollution limits to apply for green infrastructure funding. 

“London's toxic air is directly harming the health of our children," said Khan. "Working with boroughs like Newham we are determined to do everything in our power to protect them and ensure future generations breathe cleaner, healthier air."

Generating positive change

Salisbury Primary School received £10,000 of the Mayor’s £1 million improvement fund following their audit in 2018. With additional funding from Newham Council, the school has relocated their Day Care Centre playground away from busy Romford Road, reducing the children’s exposure to harmful emissions.

"It’s wonderful to see Salisbury Primary School leading the way and transforming their environment into a safe, clean space for everyone," added Khan. I’m delighted that other boroughs will be following their lead in expanding our innovative air quality audits to all state-run schools.

“As Mayor, I’ve moved as fast as I can in London to implement the most ambitious plans to tackle air pollution of any major city in the world. 

"This includes implementing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone, which has already reduced harmful nitrogen dioxide pollution by almost a third in central London zone. 

"Government must follow London’s lead and help clean up filthy air across the country. A key part of this is legally binding targets in the upcoming Environment Bill to meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines by 2030.”

New measures

Newham Council is now extending air quality audits to all primary and secondary schools in the borough as part of a long-term air quality monitoring study. The monitoring will help target clean air initiatives which currently includes a ‘Healthy School Streets’ programme and ‘anti-idling’ campaigns – both supported by the Mayor.

Salisbury Primary School will also benefit from tough new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards introduced across London for heavy vehicles in just three weeks, on October 26. The LEZ was set up to encourage the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in the Capital to become cleaner.

As a result of these measures and the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone up to the North and South circular roads in 2021, we expect reductions in toxic road transport nitrogen oxide emissions of around 30 per cent across London in 2021.

On Clean Air Day, head to The Clean Air Hub to learn more about what air pollution is, how it affects your health, what you can do to protect yourself from it and the action you can take to tackle it