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London's ULEZ begins - in vanguard of major effort to tackle polluted air

Mon 08 April 2019 | Back to news list

The world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has launched in London today; a major element of the capital's efforts to clean up air pollution. London is leading on UK city-based efforts to tackle poor air quality after the UK Government lost several high profile court cases for failing to ensure air quality meets legal standards in several parts of the country. The vehicle standards adopted by the ULEZ are common to Clean Air Zones planned in other cities. 
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says that two million Londoners – including more than 400,000 children – are living in areas which exceed legal limits for air pollution. Traffic emissions are the biggest source of that pollution in London. Thousands of Londoners die early each year because of toxic air pollution. It is stunting the growth of children’s lungs, is a cause of cancer, and increases the risk of asthma, stroke and dementia. 
The Mayor says that the introduction of the ULEZ will reduce road transport NOx emissions by around 45 per cent in central London. Other complementary measures include cleaning up TfL’s buses (in which the LowCVP has been closely involved in the context of broader policy), no longer licensing diesel taxis, and expanding the ULEZ to inner London in 2021 will cut emissions further. 
The British Heart Foundation has welcomed the ULEZ introduction saying..."crucially, it will help to protect the health of the most vulnerable people across the capital.”
City Hall says it has addressed equity criticisms by encouraging more Londoners to use public transport; offering a four-year TfL fares freeze and the unlimited Hopper bus fare.
Sadiq Khan said: "London has always been a progressive and forward-thinking city, and a hub for innovation and climate action. Now more than ever, we must uphold this reputation and lead from the front on environmental issues
"Air quality is one area where we can do this and make a real difference right now. I believe passionately that every Londoner – and every child in our city – should have the right to breathe clean air, regardless of the postcode they live in or the social class they belong to."
Commenting on the ULEZ introduction, LowCVP's managing director, Andy Eastlake said: The introduction of restrictions on older, polluting vehicle access is one of the most important 'tools in the box' for tackling pollution in areas where the air quality is at its worst and for encouraging alternative, cleaner travel options. 
"Poor air quality is unequal in its impacts; it tends to have the greatest effect on the youngest, oldest and poorest in our communities.
"Other cities with air quality challenges will be looking very closely at how London's ULEZ works and a successful introduction will embolden more to follow Birmingham and Leeds in introducing Clean Air Zones (CAZ) to their communities." 
The central London ULEZ now operates in the same area as the current Congestion Charge Zone. Vehicles that drive in the ULEZ will need to meet emissions standards or pay a daily charge. The charge for non-compliant cars is £12.50 a day (in addition to the Congestion Charge). Non-compliant larger vehicles have higher charges. (Drivers can check their vehicle's status using the on-line vehicle checker.)
The LowCVP has been working to ensure that the standards adopted for London's ULEZ are consistent with those planned, or under consideration, in other UK cities. The LowCVP aims to ensure that there is as much consistency as possible across clean air zones to help consumer understanding and encourage acceptance of the new policies.
Related news: A YouGov survey for the business campaign group London First found that 72% of adults in London support emissions charging to tackle both air pollution and congestion. (See Guardian news link.)
A separate survey by Nissan found that 65% of UK adults think increased adoption of low or zero emissions vehicles is important for the environment's protection. Almost half of all respondents to a survey of 2,000 people conducted nationwide support the ULEZ introduction. (For more details, see this link.)

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