Low Emission Zones (LEZ) have multiplied by 40% across Europe since 2019, forcing older and more polluting vehicles off the road, according to a report from the Clean Cities Campaign.
Compiled from EU data, the report predicts the 320 European city regions where Low Emission Zones have been introduced is set rise again by 58% within the next three years.
Europe’s top ten most popular tourist cities all now restrict petrol and diesel emissions with stricter rules expected to follow in London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin by 2025, when at least 27 existing LEZs will have been expanded or tightened.
Barbara Stoll, Director of the Clean Cities Campaign said, "We are seeing a growing momentum across Europe as city leaders understand the urgency of reducing toxic emissions which are harming our health and contributing to dangerous climate breakdown.”
There is no safe level of air pollution to breathe, and Asthma + Lung UK is calling for the introduction of legally binding clean air targets in line with the World Health Organisation’s 2005 recommendations and for these targets to be met by 2030.
Tim Dexter, Campaigns Manager, Air Quality, Asthma + Lung UK said: “It’s no exaggeration to describe air pollution as a public health emergency – it’s harmful to everyone, but people with lung conditions like asthma are especially vulnerable.
“In a recent survey we conducted, more than half of people with asthma that we asked told us their condition is triggered by toxic air, which can lead to potentially life-threatening asthma attacks.”
“Many cities, including Manchester and Liverpool, have scaled back or abandoned their plans to introduce Clean Air Zones, leaving residents vulnerable to the life-threatening impacts of toxic air.”
Dexter said evidence showed that charging was one of the most effective ways to tackle air pollution by reducing harmful emissions in the shortest possible time, and that the benefits were already showing. He pointed to Birmingham where the levels of harmful pollutant NO2 dropped by 13% in the first year the zone was introduced.
But he added: “The current patchwork of Clean Air Zones doesn’t go far enough. Unfortunately many cities, including Manchester and Liverpool, have scaled back or abandoned their plans to introduce Clean Air Zones, leaving residents vulnerable to the life-threatening impacts of toxic air.
“The zones that do exist tend to be small, and we want to see existing schemes in the most polluted towns and cities expanded, to stop more people breathing in life-threateningly dirty air. And for these schemes to be successful, people need to be properly supported to transition to cleaner vehicles through scrappage schemes and incentives.”
Stoll added that it is getting harder to drive older, more polluting vehicles. “LEZs are one of the most effective tools we have because they deliver these reductions, and city leaders are learning from successful schemes elsewhere.
“Restricting traffic brings added benefits such as making cities more liveable so we can expect more of these measures being implemented across the continent in coming years.”
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