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In order to combat the triple challenges of air pollution, the climate emergency, and congestion, and to ensure that five million more Londoners can breathe cleaner air, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) throughout the entire city. On Tuesday, August 29, 2023, the extension will go into effect and cover all of London’s boroughs up to the current Low Emission Zone limit.

Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of toxic air pollution, and elderly people who breathe it in have a higher risk of developing dementia. More than 500,000 Londoners, more than half of whom reside in the boroughs outside of the city, have asthma and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of toxic air.

The ULEZ has already had great success in central and inner London, lowering levels of roadside pollution by 44% in the former and 20% in the latter. The mayor is of the opinion that everyone in London has a right to breathe clean air.

Sadiq is helping Londoners through the cost-of-living crisis: the expansion will be followed by a brand-new £110 million scrappage program to aid low-income Londoners, Londoners with disabilities, charities, small businesses, and single proprietors. During the consultation process, the Mayor met with communities in order to develop a plan that would best help them. Those who are approved for the scrappage program will receive a stipend to scrap or, for the first time, adapt their vehicle for certain vans and minibuses. In order to get a better financial package, successful car owners might choose to receive a lower reward along with up to two complimentary annual bus and tram passes.

Additionally, the Mayor unveiled new initiatives to assist those with disabilities, including the extension of current exemption periods for London’s disabled drivers and non-profit organization-operated community transport minibuses to October 2027 and October 2025, respectively, as well as the introduction of new exemption periods for disabled drivers and wheelchair-accessible vehicles. As a result, almost a quarter of a million disabled Londoners, including those who are already entitled to a Blue Badge, may be eligible for the expanded exemption periods. By eliminating the price for cars to sign up for Auto-Pay for the ULEZ and Congestion Charge, the Mayor is showing even more support.

The Mayor also unveiled a strategy for enhancing the bus network in outer London in order to maximize the potential advantages of expanding the ULEZ and boost alternatives to private vehicles. With better service to the new Cancer Hub at the Royal Marsden Hospital, two new routes will be launched in Sutton. New zero-emission cross-river services will be implemented in east London, pending consultation. It also includes an extension to route 129 (Lewisham – North Greenwich) north over the river to Great Eastern Quay through the Royal Docks and a new high-frequency, limited stop service between Grove Park and Canary Wharf.

There are also plans for new routes and enhancements to assist growing areas in a number of other outer London locations, adding more than one million additional kilometers to the bus network. This is a portion of the bus network in outer London’s largest-ever expansion including improved connections between Havering’s Harold Hill and Upminster; new and upgraded services for Brent Cross in Barnet; improved services in Southall; bus service upgrades in the Harrow and Wealdstone region; new routes to serve the Wood Green development in the Haringey Heartlands as well as better bus connections, especially to and from Whipps Cross Hospital, in Wanstead.

The greatest way to maximize the health and environmental advantages for Londoners while lowering the cost to cars is to expand the ULEZ throughout the entire city. The number of fatalities owing to air pollution is still thousands per year, and the outer boroughs of London, which are not currently covered by the ULEZ, have the highest number of air pollution-related fatalities.

By extending the ULEZ to all of London, 27,000 tonnes of CO2 will be saved there, almost twice as much as the central London ULEZ did in its first year of operation.

In addition to other enhancements, the expansion is anticipated to further progress in reducing air pollution, benefiting five million residents of outer London by lowering nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from cars and vans in outer London by 10 and 7 percent, respectively, and lowering PM2.5 car exhaust emissions in outer London by nearly 16 percent.

The poorest Londoners and Londoners from ethnic minority origins are less likely to possess a car yet are also more affected by poisonous air, making it a social justice issue. Only 5% of Londoners with the lowest incomes own a car, but they are 10% more likely to experience poisonous air.

The ULEZ is a very focused plan to remove the dirtiest cars from the road. The current ULEZ area’s compliance rate is 94 percent, significantly better than the 39 percent it was when it was first announced in 2017. It is also higher than the 85 percent it was in the month before the previous extension, and it is already around 85 percent in outer London. This indicates that the majority of drivers in outer London won’t be harmed by the London-wide expansion.

According to the survey respondents, the Mayor’s Car and Motorcycle Scrappage Scheme increased walking, cycling, and public transportation use while decreasing vehicle ownership, according to the evaluation study of the program. According to the report on the Mayor’s Scrappage Scheme, some people used the money to buy ULEZ-compliant cars, but others used it to pay for public transportation, bicycles and e-bikes, and car clubs.

The Mayor’s new scrappage scheme will include the option to get up to two annual bus and tram passes, and TfL is working with businesses to agree on a range of offers on sustainable transport in order to support those who would like to use the money from the scrappage scheme for cleaner transport options in addition to supporting those who want to put the funds towards public transportation, bikes and e-bikes, and car clubs.

Following a public consultation that took place between May and July 2022, 59% of participants agreed that more needs to be done to address toxic air. A representative YouGov poll commissioned by City Hall also indicated nearly twice as many Londoners support the Mayor’s proposed extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone should go ahead than oppose it.

At Bonus Pastor School in Lewisham, which has dangerously low air quality, Sadiq revealed plans for the extension and spoke to students and stakeholders from all around London about the risks of poisonous air and the necessity of finding an urgent solution.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The latest evidence shows that air pollution is making us sick from cradle to the grave. Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it’s especially dangerous for children due to the long-lasting impact on their health and life chances, with kids in our city growing up with stunted lungs.  

“The ULEZ so far has been transformational, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost a half in central London. But there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the health of young Londoners and leading to thousands of early deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths in the outer London boroughs. Expanding the ULEZ London-wide will mean five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives. 

“The rising cost of living has been a key consideration for me. 

That’s why I’m announcing that we will be introducing our biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110m – to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled Londoners, small businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles. All the money raised by ULEZ will be pumped back into funding local public transport and I’m pleased to announce today that we are planning the biggest ever expansion of the bus network in outer London.  

“Expanding the ULEZ London-wide has not been an easy decision. The easy thing for me would have been to kick the can down the road. But in the end, public health comes before political expediency. We have too often seen measures delayed around the world to tackle air pollution and the climate crisis because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient. But there’s no time to waste when people’s lives are on the line and we are facing a climate crisis. As mayor, I’m not willing to turn a blind eye because it’s clear the cost of inaction – to our economy, to livelihoods, to the environment and the health of Londoners – would be a far too high a price to pay. Expanding ULEZ is the right choice for our city and something that I know will help us to continue building a better, greener, fairer and healthier London for everyone.”  

 

Alex Williams, TfL’s Chief Customer and Strategy Officer, said: ”Expanding the ULEZ is vital for public health in this city. We know that there are more deaths that are attributed to toxic air in the city’s outer boroughs and that bringing in these world leading standards over a larger area will see millions more breathing cleaner air. Our experience of these schemes shows that they work, with significant reductions in pollution since the first zone was introduced in 2019. 

“As part of helping people to make the green transition, the Mayor has announced unparalleled support for people to scrap their older, more polluting vehicles. These groups include those that are essential to capital’s recovery, some of the most vulnerable in society and those that look after them. Following the consultation and taking on board the feedback from disabled people, we are extending the grace period for certain vehicles and widening the criteria for those who qualify. This could potentially benefit more than 280,000 people.  

“The recent report that evaluated the Mayor’s previous scrappage scheme showed around a third of people choose not to purchase a new vehicle at all and 22 per cent no longer have access to a vehicle in their household. With this new package we will also be helping people to make more sustainable journeys with free annual bus and tram passes. This will be complemented by significant improvements to the outer London bus network, making public transport a more attractive alternative to the car.” 

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation and World Health Organization Advocate for Health and Clean Air, said: “When we had the inquest, we got the experts in Ella’s case to give some recommendations and all of them agreed ULEZ expansion was something that needed to be done to clean up the air in London. 

“The Mayor, the government and councils are all aware of what the experts say about the dangers of air pollution, and expanding ULEZ London-wide will be a significant help in tackling this public health crisis. I commend the mayor for pushing this forward. 

“Clean air should be a human right, and with Ella’s Law currently passing through the Lords, this is something I am fighting for every day. But the expanded ULEZ across London is a big step in the right direction.” 

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “Reducing air pollution, improving public health, and fighting climate change all go hand in hand. Sadiq’s leadership is helping to clean London’s air and set an example for cities around the world. The faster cities make progress, the more lives we can save, and the better our chances of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.” 

 

Jeremy Leach, chair of London Living Streets, said: “The decision to expand the ULEZ to cover the 33 boroughs is a huge win for the health of all Londoners. London has long been a pioneer in Britain in tackling the enormous damage that air pollution causes directly through premature deaths and indirectly through long-term physical and mental damage. This is especially true for pedestrians who, all too often, have been walking along congested and polluted streets and roads. From summer 2023, everyone living, working and walking in outer London will benefit from cleaner air as well as having better access to public transport from the improved bus services.” 

Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director of Public Health, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), said: “Air pollution in London is the largest environmental health risk we are facing as a city, and one that affects the most vulnerable Londoners – including children – the most. Bold action is needed from all of us. Expanding the ULEZ will have significant health benefits for the city and prevent over 500,000 Londoners developing air pollution related diseases over 30 years.” 

Mark Hayden, Consultant Intensivist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “We see first-hand the impact poor air quality has on our patients who face challenges such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, stroke, premature birth, and other lung conditions.  

“That is why we are committed to finding, supporting and sharing creative solutions to tackle this health issue.  

“The cleaner the air, the better the future looks for our patients, and London as a whole.”   

Jane Burston, Chief Executive of Clean Air Fund said: “London is already at the forefront of national and global efforts to tackle air pollution, and the Mayor’s decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) shows why. At the Clean Air Fund, we’re heartened by modelling which demonstrates that this policy will improve the air quality around 145 schools, improving health and saving lives. We applaud Mayor Khan’s continued commitment to make progress on air quality in the capital.” 

Sarah Woolnough, CEO at Asthma + Lung UK, said: “The expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a huge win for everyone’s lungs. Asthma + Lung UK is delighted that the Mayor of London has listened to our campaigners. It is particularly significant for the 360,000* people with a lung condition in outer London who will now be included in the ULEZ. We hope this will lead to fewer premature deaths and fewer hospital admissions linked to air pollution. 

“Breathing in toxic air not only puts people at risk of potentially life-threatening asthma attacks and dangerous COPD flare-ups, it can also lead to the development of lung conditions. We urge other polluted cities to follow in London’s footsteps by introducing ambitious Clean Air Zones to protect everyone right to breathe cleaner air.” 

Oliver Lord, UK Head of the Clean Cities Campaign said: “This is a welcome next step in our fight for clean air in London and especially for people living on the most polluted roads. Anyone doubting this decision should take a long walk along the north and south circular and reason with the families living there why they don’t deserve cleaner air. 

“The Mayor’s determination and the critical concessions he has tabled to help people comply in this cost of living crisis are to be commended. We’re still trapped in this dirty decade of diesel and I urge City Hall to give us greater clarity now on what’s needed next so that everyone has time to prepare.” 

Gareth Thomas MP, Harrow West, said: “I welcome the Mayor’s decision today to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) London-wide. This bold and decisive action will help to cut the toxic air pollution in Harrow, reduce congestion, and tackle the climate emergency. Outer London boroughs will now benefit from the proven impact ULEZ can have in reducing roadside air pollution. Expanding these world leading standards to the whole city will mean that millions more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives.”  

Sir Ian Cheshire, Chair, We Mean Business Coalition; Chair, Channel 4; Chair, Spire Healthcare Group; Chair, Menhaden Capital, and non-executive director at BT, said: “I applaud the Mayor of London’s decision to expand his flagship air quality policy, the Ultra Low Emission Zone, which will mean five million more people breathing cleaner air. This is the kind of large-scale, decisive action we need to halve emissions this decade, and I have no doubt businesses in London and around the world will recognise the huge benefits that this policy will bring to communities and families across the capital.” 

Anjali Raman-Middleton, Co-founder and Programmes Director of Choked Up, said: “We know that the ULEZ significantly reduces harmful air pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and is one of the most effective ways of combating filthy air. By expanding the ULEZ to encompass all of London millions of people will breathe cleaner air, preventing loss of life and long term illness. The ULEZ will help us all breathe easy and I fully support its expansion.”  

Dr Doug Parr, Policy Director at Greenpeace UK said: “It’s a breath of fresh air to see that the ULEZ is being expanded. In 2019 alone, 4,000 Londoners died due to toxic air, which disproportionately affects deprived communities, people of colour and people in London’s outer boroughs. It’s absolutely right that the Mayor is reducing vehicle air pollution – it’s better for individuals, better for communities and better for the planet. 

“We believe that cities across the UK and beyond should follow London’s example and bring in their own ultra low-emissions zones. The more cities that do, the better the quality of the urban environment and the fewer people that are forced to breathe in toxic air.”

 

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

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