Monday, 28 March 2016

Boris' Air Pollution Legacy

At the end of Boris' term, London is still experiencing high levels of illegal air pollution with health impacts for tens of thousands of Londoners. His response to this has been to propose a scheme he's called the 'Ultra Low Emission Zone' (ULEZ). This article looks in to the details of this, why it isn't going to give us clean air and what different mayoral candidates are proposing:

  • The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) are referring to the same small area of central London. Essentially the ULEZ is an update on the CCZ with additional environmental considerations. 
  • It means vehicles have to be at the latest EU standards (Euro 6 for diesels, Euro 4 for petrol), So this doesn't ban diesels.
  • It begins in 2020.

Other measures to reduce air pollution:

Currently the mayor has just got buses to the Euro 4 standard at the end of 2015 (by retrofitting Euro 3). The mayor has pinned his hopes on Euro 6 and so many of the buses in service are two generations older and very significantly dirtier.


It is obvious that the proposed ULEZ is coming in too late, lacks of decisive action and will fail to make any significant improvement apart from in a very limited area of central London.

Mayoral Candidates:

Zac (Conservative): Backing Boris' inadequate plans and promising more of the same.

Sadiq (Labour): Although showing a willingness to go further than Boris, his policies currently lack decisive action to deliver clean air for all Londoners. 
  • Consult on bringing forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and expanding it along major arterial routes or a wider section of central London. Lack of details on what he would like to introduce.
  • Call upon the Government to introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to support those who wish to change to a greener car. But not using his mayoral powers to ban these vehicles...
  • Deliver the electric charging infrastructure, in partnership with the private sector, necessary for a major expansion in the use of electric vehicles.
Caroline (Lib Dems): Caroline Pidgeon's experience as an assembly member shows in her policies for clean air, which they say aren't just ambitious, but are deliverable in practice by a future mayor:

  • Immediately add a £2:50 surcharge for diesels in the zone,
  • Start the ULEZ in 2018 (2 years earlier)
  • Ban diesel vehicles up to and including double-decker buses (not HGVS, presumably due to lack of alternatives) from the zone by 2024

Sian (Green Party): The Green Party are proposing a raft of policies to tighten up and improve the ULEZ in addition to making sure it is expanded to a wider area. This includes:

  • Immediately introduce a higher congestion charge for all but the cleanest vehicles in central London, to create a Very Low Emission Zone. We will invite boroughs to opt in some or all of their area to expand this zone into illegally polluted parts of inner and outer London.
  • Begin consultation immediately on a scheme to replace the ULEZ that will cover all of London and be effective in complying with the law. This could be combined with the new traffic demand management scheme we will develop to replace the Congestion Charge. 


While Sadiq is clearly leading Zac with his ambition for clean air, neither of the leading candidates are proposing decisive action on air pollution. In contrast, both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are proposing immediate actions which would start giving us cleaner air from day one with plans to tighten the rules significantly over the next 5 years.

However in order to improve the health of the millions of Londoners living away from the centre, it's clear that clean air measures must be applied far beyond the limited zone currently proposed.

If you want to highlight the problem of air pollution, Stop Killing Cyclists are holding an Air Pollution Protest outside the Department for Transport on the 27th April - gathering from 5pm, main  action 6-6:30, join after work, details here:

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