London Low Emission Zone Impact on Air Quality

London Low Emission Zone

The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced in 2008 to reduce emissions from larger vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries. To further tackle poor air quality around London, the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was implemented in 2019. This applies to more vehicle types such as cars, vans and motorcycles.

What is a Low Emission Zone and Why Are They Implemented?

Poor air quality is the largest environmental health risk around the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates seven million premature deaths each year are caused by air pollution. The health effects from exposure to poor air quality can result in numerous chronic and acute diseases. These can include lung inflammation, cardiac arrest, increased hospital admissions, stroke, and some carcinogenic diseases. According to a report by the London Councils, air pollution in London costs the health care system £3.7 billion each year.

Road transport makes a considerable contribution to atmospheric pollutant concentrations in Greater London. Of the relevant emissions, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) have been identified as the most significant. In an effort to reduce the numerous effects associated with poor air quality, London has implemented a LEZ for heavy duty vehicles and the world’s most stringent ULEZ, targeted to all motor vehicles.

The ULEZ was implemented to accelerate the UK’s compliance with relevant air quality standards and operates 24/7 across all London boroughs and the City of London. Through strict emission standards, vehicles entering the zone are required to be constructed to:

  • Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorized tricycles and quadricycles.
  • Euro 4 (NOX) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles;
  • Euro 6 (NOX and PM) for diesel cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles; and,
  • Euro VI (NOX and PM) for buses, coaches and HGVs (LEZ).

In addition to these requirements, the LEZ also has weight standards for heavy duty vehicles.

The LEZ and ULEZ work by restricting access to the most polluting road vehicles within a defined area, by enforcing drivers to pay an extra charge whose vehicles fail to comply with required standards. The aim is to disincentivise non-compliant drivers to update their vehicles to those that produce lower emissions and ultimately reduce pollution. Charges brought about by the schemes are reinvested back into London’s transport network.

Have the London Low Emission Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone been Effective?

Dr Habtamu and Professor Elanor Fichera from the University of Bath have found the LEZ and ULEZ schemes have had both health and economic benefits,. These have included savings of over £480 million on the health and labour market in London. The report also concluded improvements in air quality brought about by the LEZs contribution to a 4.5% and 8% reduction in long-term health effects and respiratory issues, respectively.

Additional analysis from the policy brief suggested after the implementation of the ULEZ, NO2 levels had fallen by 18.4% in comparison to levels between 2016 and 2018. This is in addition to a 13% reduction in PM10 between 2008 and 2013 after the first LEZ.

The academics from Bath’s found in comparison to Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Leicester, without LEZ schemes, London’s health and economic benefits from the LEZ and ULEZ far exceeded the implementation costs.

However, there is controversy around LEZs and the report highlighted that solutions are needed to help reduce the burden on poorer motorists. Despite this statement, clean air zones in Greater London have helped generate cost savings of more than £963 million and the proportion of vehicles that comply with minimum emission standards rose by 10% between May and September 2022.

How can Redmore Environmental Help You?

Redmore Environmental has extensive experience in undertaking Dispersion Modelling of vehicle exhaust emissions. These projects have been undertaken in support of Local Authority initiatives and planning applications throughout the UK. We are able to utilise a number of modelling techniques and software packages to quantify pollutant concentrations as a result of releases from road vehicles and have previously undertaken assessments in and around the London LEZ and ULEZ.

If you are concerned about air quality in London or require an Air Quality Assessment to support a planning application for your development, then please get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you.

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