London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said he is asking TfL to consult on expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide in 2023, whilst at the same ruling out the Clean Air Charge and the Greater London Boundary Charge.
The Mayor has already taken ground-breaking action to tackle pollution, carbon emissions and congestion in London since 2016, but toxic air caused by traffic is still leading to children growing up with stunted lungs and nearly 4,000 premature deaths a year – with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs, which the ULEZ doesn’t currently cover. There has also been a slower rate of improvement in air quality in outer London than in central and inner London.
New analysis by City Hall published last month also showed that despite recent improvements in air quality, every hospital, medical centre and care home across the capital is located in areas that breach the new updated World Health Organization’s guidelines for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Over 500,000 people in London boroughs suffer from asthma and are vulnerable to the impacts of toxic air.
This week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that warned there is only a brief and rapidly closing window to tackle the climate crisis, with a warning of the dire consequences of inaction. Severe impacts are already happening and vulnerable people with the least resources to adapt are most exposed. This follows the publication of a report last month which revealed that in order to meet the target of getting to net-zero in London by 2030, car traffic must reduce by at least 27% in the capital by the end of the decade.
Separate analysis shows vehicle congestion cost the capital £5.1 billion last year, which has risen close to pre-pandemic levels, leading to gridlocked traffic and filthy air pollution.
In order to reduce traffic and associated emissions by anywhere close to the amount required to tackle these three challenges, the capital will have to see a significant shift away from petrol and diesel vehicle use and towards walking and cycling, greater public transport use and cleaner vehicles.
The Mayor will say in his speech that the long-term and fairest solution to these challenges will ultimately be smart road user charging. This would enable all existing road user charges, such as the Congestion Charge and ULEZ, to be scrapped and replaced with a smarter, simpler and fair scheme that charges motorists on a per mile basis. This could allow for different rates to be charged depending on how polluting vehicles are, the level of congestion in the area and access to public transport.
Sadiq Khan has asked TfL to start exploring how this concept could be developed, however TfL is still many years away from being ready to implement such a scheme. Given the urgency of the climate crisis and the damaging impact of toxic air pollution, the Mayor believes bold action must be taken now. That’s why he asked TfL last year to present him with a range of policy options that could be taken forward quickly. These included:
- Introducing a Greater London Boundary Charge for vehicles driving into London.
- Implementing a low-level daily Clean Air Charge for all but the cleanest vehicles.
- And extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone to cover the whole of Greater London.
In weighing up the different proposals, the rising cost of living was a key consideration. This meant looking for a scheme that would have the biggest effect on reducing emissions and congestion relative to the potential financial impact on Londoners as a whole. After examining the science, studying the data and carefully considering the wider economic context, the Mayor has decided his preferred option is to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide to the London LEZ boundary in 2023, subject to a public and stakeholder consultation. He has ruled out both the Clean Air Charge and the Greater London Boundary Charge as options.
The ULEZ is highly targeted at getting the most polluting vehicles off our streets, and early assessments indicate that making it London-wide would:
- reduce NOx emissions from cars and vans by between 285 and 330 tonnes
- lead to a reduction of around 10% NOx in emissions from cars and vans in outer London on top of building on the 30 per cent reduction in road transport NOx emissions expected from the expanded ULEZ and tighter Low Emission Zone standards
- reduce CO2 emissions in outer London by between 135,000 to 150,000 tonnes
- And reduce the number of the most polluting cars on London’s roads by between an additional 20,000 and 40,000 a day.
The Mayor will also make a commitment in his speech to help charities, small businesses, disabled people and Londoners on lower incomes adapt to the potential London-wide ULEZ, with as big a scrappage scheme as is feasible to help motorists in outer London scrap their older, more polluting vehicles and instead switch to cleaner forms of transport, use a car club vehicle or purchase newer, cleaner models that are ULEZ-compliant. He will also call on the Government to provide extra support for a scrappage scheme in London – like they have done for other cities around the country.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The triple challenges of tackling toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion mean we need to further reduce emissions from vehicles in London. We simply don’t have time to waste. The climate emergency means we only have a small window of opportunity left to reduce carbon emissions to help save the planet. And despite the world-leading progress we have made over the last few years, there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and leading to thousands of deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in outer London boroughs.
“This is also a matter of social justice – with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest. Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car, but they are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing.
“If no additional action is taken to reduce air pollution beyond the existing polices, around 550,000 Londoners would develop diseases attributable to air pollution over the next 30 years and the cumulative cost to the NHS and the social care system is estimated to be £10.4 billion.
“I’m determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers in London – not only to protect Londoners’ health right now, but for the sake of future generations to come. It’s clear the cost of inaction – to our economy, to livelihoods, to the environment and the health of Londoners – would be far greater than the cost of reducing toxic air pollution, tackling the climate emergency and cutting congestion.
“We have too often seen measures delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London.
“In weighing up the different options, the rising cost of living was a key consideration for me. Because at a time when people’s budgets are under pressure, I’m not willing to ask people to pay more unless I’m absolutely convinced it’s justified to save lives and protect the health of Londoners. I believe the proposal to extend the ULEZ London-wide will have the biggest effect on emissions and congestion relative to the potential financial impact on Londoners as a whole. We are also proposing to introduce the biggest scrappage scheme feasible to help Londoners on low incomes, disabled Londoners and businesses.”
Christina Calderato, Director of Transport Strategy and Policy at Transport for London said: “Road-based transport has for many years been a major contributor towards poor air quality and carbon emissions and we are determined to tackle this through a wide range of programmes across TfL. The world-leading road user charging schemes we’ve delivered throughout the last two decades have been really effective, but it is clear that as a city we need to go further. We know that Londoners understand the Ultra Low Emission Zone, and expanding it to cover all roads and bring the area in line with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will be hugely beneficial for improving air quality across the whole city. We look forward to further developing the scheme through formal and comprehensive public consultation later this year.”
Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities said, “Air pollution is a deadly problem in cities all over the world. Road transport is the single largest source of air pollution in London, leading to severe respiratory issues and devastating premature deaths. By expanding the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone to encompass all of London, Mayor Khan is putting the health of all Londoners first and ensuring no-one is left behind. What London is doing will be keenly watched across the world, inspiring many other mayors to invest in cleaner, greener, and fairer cities.”
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said: “In the inquest into my daughter’s death the coroner was very clear that the pollution on the south circular is what started Ella’s asthma and ultimately contributed to her death. By taking action and expanding the ULEZ to include the south circular and the whole of London, people will be encouraged to get rid of their dirty vehicles, and children like Ella will breathe more easily and have a better quality of life.
“Air pollution is a public health emergency and immediate action needs to be taken. Since Ella’s death in 2013, the number of children dying from asthma in London hasn’t changed, it’s between 8-12 every year. This is despite better medicine and the UK having some of the top expertise in asthma treatment. We must continue to clean up the air in order to save lives, especially for people living in poorer communities.”
Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of Asthma + Lung UK, said: “This is a landmark moment in protecting the lives and lungs of all Londoners. For the first time an entire UK city will be preventing the most polluting vehicles from pumping out toxic air that damages people’s lungs where they live, work and play. At Asthma + Lung UK we have been calling for a London-wide ULEZ to help protect hundreds of thousands more people in outer London who have a lung condition like asthma and COPD and who are at risk of a life-threatening attack or flare up because of air pollution. We now want to see this scheme put into action. For it to succeed there needs to be improved walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure in outer London boroughs so people are more confident to stop using their cars and transition to cleaner travel.”
Jemima Hartshorn, Mums for Lungs, said: “Despite having campaigned for a London wide ULEZ since 2018, I did not dare to hope this would become reality soon. We know more about pollution and it’s harmful health impacts, especially on children, now than we did a few years ago – so we urge all policymakers to not rest until pollution in London is reduced so far that it no longer shortens lives.”
The proposed London-wide ULEZ will be subject to impact assessment, public and stakeholder consultation and confirmation by the Mayor (with or without modifications) in light of consultation responses received.
Any new or amended road user charging scheme, if taken forward, would be subject to further assessment and analysis, full equality impact assessments, with potential mitigations and exemptions for disabled people, Londoners on low incomes and additional support for small businesses and charities a key focus .The Mayor is determined to ensure any new scheme is fair by making sure those on lower incomes are protected with the wider benefits of moving to a green economy, including more jobs, lower fuel bills and better health outcomes, are felt by everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged in London.
Subject to impact assessments, consultation and decision making processes, the proposed London-wide ULEZ scheme could be implemented in 2023.