London Mayor Sadiq Khan has stepped up his war on air pollution with the unveiling of a new plan to introduce the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and impose hefty new charges on the capital’s most polluting vehicles.
The Mayor’s Office has today kicked off a consultation on the initial phase of the ULEZ, which is slated to come into effect from April 8 2019.
Under the proposals, cars and vans traveling in London’s Congestion Zone that do not meet either Euro 4 standards for petrol vehicles or Euro 6 standards for diesel vehicles will face a new £12.50 a day charge.
The charge will apply at all times and will be in addition to the Congestion Charge, which applies at certain times of the day. It would mean the most polluting vehicles could face charges of up to £24 a day for entering Central London.
The charge will replace the £10 T-charge or toxicity charge, which will come into effect in October this year. It will cover petrol cars that are approximately 13 years old in 2019 and diesel cars that are more than four years old.
Under wider plans announced today, the ULEZ would then be extended in 2020 to cover buses, coaches, and lorries, imposing a £100 a day charge for vehicles that drive into the zone that do not meet emissions standards.
Then from 2021, the zone could be expanded to cover the whole of central London up to the north and south circular roads.
The charges will impose significant new costs on businesses’ logistics operations if they fail to convert to cleaner fleets.
The Mayor’s Office said the moves are expected to result in a halving of NOx emissions from transport by 2020.
Separate consultations on the expansion of the zone are expected to follow the initial consultation on the 2019 launch later this year.
“Today I’m announcing bold proposals which are critically needed to safeguard Londoners from our air quality health crisis,” Khan said. “I am introducing a new T-Charge this October and subject to consultation, I want to introduce the Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London in April 2019. This alone will mean the capital has the toughest emission standard of any world city.
“But the scale of our air quality challenge is so big that I need to go further. I want to expand the ULEZ from 2020 for heavy vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries so that all of London will benefit from cleaner air. Then from 2021, I want to expand it up to the North and South Circular roads for light vehicles, including cars and vans. These measures will help improve the air that millions of Londoners breathe. I want to announce my intention to consult on these proposals in good time so that business and those affected by new charges will have time to make changes they need to adapt to our low emission requirements.”
The move comes ahead of the imminent launch of the government’s Air Quality Plan, which is expected to give cities new powers to introduce clean air zones. Khan reiterated his calls for the government to “step up and match my ambition to transform the appalling air we breathe”.
“Ministers need to deliver a national vehicle scrappage fund, reform fiscal incentives like vehicle excise duty and pass a powerful new Clean Air Act to Act end the toxic smog in London once and for all,” he said.
The new proposals were welcomed by ClientEarth, the law firm which successfully brought legal action against the government over its failure to meet EU air quality standards.
“This is a significant move from the Mayor,” said ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop. “Bringing the Ultra Low Emission Zone forward is absolutely essential if we are to protect people’s health. But all options need to be on the table including a London wide ULEZ for all vehicles to protect the health of all Londoners. The High Court made it crystal clear that the government and therefore the Mayor must do everything in their power to clean up London’s air as soon as possible.”
However, Conservatives on the London Assembly voiced opposition to the proposals.
“The Mayor has failed to listen to heavy opposition to this earlier implementation – most notably from London’s emergency services,” said Assembly Member Shaun Bailey. “Our police, fire and ambulance services will have to pay millions of pounds to replace their fleets with cleaner vehicles early or be charged heavy daily rates for saving people’s lives. They should be exempted from this earlier deadline.
“The Mayor has also ignored warnings about extending the zone to lesser polluted areas of London. Although he has pushed back the extension to 2021, millions of Londoners face paying exorbitant charges for driving in areas where air pollution is below legal limits. London’s air needs to be improved but taxing our emergency services and Londoners in greener parts of the city does not achieve that.”
The development came as former chief scientific advisor Sir David King admitted previous governments had been wrong to incentivise the wider roll out of diesel vehicles, having wrongly assumed new technologies would quickly address emissions concerns.
“I was in very close contact with the industry that was producing these catalyst trap systems and I was convinced that they could manage the problem,” he todl Radio 4’s Today programme. “What we know now, from the Department for Transport emission results from very extensive tests of vehicles, is that a large number of diesel-driven vehicles on the road in London are emitting more than 12 times the Euro six limit.”