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London air pollution traffic scheme now largest in Europe

Capital’s policies could prevent almost 300,000 new cases of air quality related diseases
05 January 2022 , Katie Coyne

Nitrogen oxide transport emissions in London are expected to have been reduced by 30% in 2021 due to the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and tighter Low Emission Zone standards for heavy vehicles, according to early data from the schemes.

London’s ULEZ was expanded 18-fold at the end of October 2021, and statistics from the first four weeks of the larger scheme found the number of older, more polluting vehicles in the zone was reduced by 37% - or 47,000. Compliance with ULEZ scheme was around 92%, compared with 39% in 2017.  

The larger ULEZ scheme now covers a quarter of London and is the largest zone of its kind in Europe, including four million people.

As well as reduced nitrogen oxide levels, carbon dioxide from vehicles in the zone are expected to reduce by 5% within the first 12 months, in addition to the 6% reduction in the central London ULEZ area since 2019.

While data is only available from the first month of the expanded scheme, the Mayor’s office said the health benefits of its transport policies combined – including ULEZ and LEZ – could avoid almost 300,000 new cases of air quality related diseases, and prevent more than a million hospital admissions, saving the NHS £5bn by 2050.

“The next step must be to roll ULEZ out to the M25, to protect all of London from the dangerous and deadly health impacts of air pollution. We all have a right to breathe clean air." 

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, WHO BreatheLife ambassador and founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation said: "A year ago, the coroner's inquest into my daughter's death found that Ella's worst asthma attacks coincided with spikes in air pollution, mostly from polluting vehicles near our home.

“The experts who spoke at the inquest recommended expanding London's ULEZ in order to prevent future deaths like Ella's. These numbers show that ULEZ is already delivering benefits. Fewer polluting vehicles on the road means fewer hospitalisations, lower health care costs and healthier Londoners.

“The next step must be to roll ULEZ out to the M25, to protect all of London from the dangerous and deadly health impacts of air pollution. We all have a right to breathe clean air." 

Transport for London’s Director of City Planning, Alex Williams said: “Every driver and business who has made the switch to cleaner vehicles is playing their part in combatting toxic air pollution. These environmental and health benefits are not only felt in the capital but across the UK.” 

Mark Watt executive director of C40 Cities – a global network of mayors taking action on climate change – said: “This is a symbol of the scale and speed of action we need to take across the world, in all sectors. For too long we’ve had people dither and delay – arguing tackling toxic air in any meaningful way was too difficult.

“What the mayor of London has shown is that with the right determination and leadership, change is possible and that businesses and the public at large are willing to make the necessary changes to breathe cleaner air."

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