Environment roundup

May’s average temperature on Earth of 15.54 degrees Celsius was the warmest since records began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last month was especially hot in parts of Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Spain, South Korea and Australia, while the United States was not close to a record, just one degree warmer than the 20th century average. However, California is having a record hot first five months of the year, a full 5 degrees above normal.

Oxford Street in London is one of the most polluted places on earth, with a report revealing that the shopping district has the highest levels of toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide in the world. A monitor installed by scientists detected peak levels of 463 micrograms per cubic metre, while the average amount of the pollutant across day and night since the start of the year has been 135 – more than three times the EU's safety limit. NO2 is produced by diesel fumes coming from buses and taxis, and is linked with asthma and heart attacks.

The air quality in some of the UK's biggest cities is unlikely to meet EU standards before 2030, according to the government. Member states were supposed to meet targets on pollutants from diesel cars and trucks by 2010. The nitrogen dioxide (NO2) they produce is linked to a range of respiratory ailments. But the European Court of Justice has heard that London, Leeds and Birmingham could still be above these goals in 2030.

Government is to beef up the numbers of ultra low emission vehicles by purchasing 150 plug in electric cars in the first wave of a new scheme, transport minister Baroness Kramer has said. 

The appointment of former Arup boss Philip Dilley as chair of the Environment Agency has been confirmed by the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee. He will take up his £100,000 a year, two to three day a week post in September. 

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is planning to introduce a new charge on diesel engine vehicles driving into the city in order to reduce air pollution. He is also set to lobby government to increase road tax on diesel vehicles with cities around the UK struggling to meet EU air quality requirements.

The Property industry is urging a rethink over plans for new affordable flood insurance scheme. The British Property Federation has urged Government to rethink the scope of Flood Re after ministers confirmed that millions of homeowners could be left out of the new scheme designed to provide households with affordable flood insurance for their home.