London expands its ultra-low emission zone in bid to reduce air pollution

Environment

A runner passes a sign advertising the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, or ULEZ.
Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone expanded on Monday, with the U.K. capital’s mayor describing the move as “a landmark day for our city.”

The new ULEZ — covering a quarter of London and 3.8 million people — is in operation 24-hours a day, seven days a week aside from Christmas Day.

Under the ULEZ, most vehicles which don’t meet a specific set of emissions standards have to pay a daily charge of £12.50 ($17.20). The charge for non-compliance is £160, although this is cut to £80 if paid in 14 days.

The ULEZ runs alongside the Congestion Charge zone, which is in central London and costs £15 a day. This zone is not being expanded.

The original ULEZ was launched in April 2019. According to Transport for London, it has contributed to a 44% drop “in roadside nitrogen dioxide within its boundaries.”

The city also has a Low Emission Zone which applies to the majority of heavy vehicles. Authorities have described the LEZ as covering “most of Greater London.”

Commenting on the expansion of the ULEZ, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “In central London, the ULEZ has already helped cut toxic roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by nearly half and led to reductions that are five times greater than the national average.”

“But pollution isn’t just a central London problem,” Khan said, “which is why expanding the ULEZ today will benefit Londoners across the whole of the city and is a crucial step in London’s green recovery from this pandemic.”

Others commenting on Monday’s news included Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.

In a statement issued alongside Khan’s, she said: “Whilst this is a huge step in the right direction, we mustn’t be complacent against this invisible threat.”

The majority of people who lived in London were “still living in areas where pollution levels are dangerously high,” she added.

“We therefore look forward to working with the Mayor to ensure ULEZ and other pollution reduction schemes go further and are delivered faster in order to improve the quality of air across the entire capital.”

Globally, air pollution is a serious problem. The World Health Organization states that 4.2 million deaths happen each year “as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution.”

London is one of many major conurbations attempting to reduce air pollution on its roads. Other examples include Berlin, where vehicles that don’t comply with its low emissions zone are fined 80 euros (around $93).

Elsewhere, the City of Amsterdam says violating the rules around its low emission zone results in a fine of “€70 for mopeds/motorised bikes, €100 for cars, taxis, delivery vans and coaches and €250 for lorries.”

The introduction of low emission zones comes at a time when major economies are attempting to reduce the environmental footprint of road-based transportation.

The U.K., for example, wants to stop the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2030. It will require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero tailpipe emissions.

Elsewhere, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is targeting a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions from cars and vans by 2035.

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