London’s mayor reveals ultra-low emission zone plan for city

13 Feb 2013

London’s mayor Boris Johnson has today revealed plans to improve London’s air quality by creating an ultra-low emission zone in the centre of the city from 2020.

According to Johnson, London could be the first city to introduce such a zone to help decrease its air pollution, banning all but the cleanest of vehicles from the city’s central zone during working hours.

Speaking at City Hall, Johnson spoke about how Transport for London is consulting on plans so that, from 2020, only zero and low-emission vehicles will be allowed to drive in central London during peak times.

“Creating the world’s first big city ultra-low emission zone has the potential to be a game-changing moment in the quality of life of our great capital,” said Johnson.

He described his vision whereby almost all of the vehicles that pass through this central zone in London during working hours will be either zero or low-emission ones.

“This would deliver incredible benefits in air quality and stimulate the delivery and mass use of low-emission technology,” said Johnson. He also detailed a plan to introduce 1,600 hybrid buses in the city by 2016.

According to a paper issued by the London Assembly last December, up to 9pc of deaths in the city are attributable to air pollution. The paper also found that the most polluting vehicles on London’s roads were diesel ones.

At the time, Murad Qureshi, chair of the Health and Environment Committee, said London is one of the worst European capitals for air pollution.

Johnson’s announcement about the new emission zone received mixed reaction today.

Jenny Jones, the Green Party’s London Assembly member, argued that Johnson should be moving more quickly on the low-emission zone, rather than leaving it to the next mayor of London.

“This is excellent news for Londoners’ health, but leaving it as a project for the next mayor to deliver is a way of ducking responsibility for the problems we’re facing now. We have argued for years that the mayor’s list of little measures is inadequate and that an ultra-low emission zone was essential,” said Jones.

Alan Andrews, an environmental lawyer who works with the non-profit environmental law organisation ClientEarth, reacted on the NGO’s blog, arguing that while the idea of an ultra-low emission zone is “undoubtedly a good one”, it remains just an idea.

“There is very little detail contained in the announcement and it is clear that the hard work of fleshing out these proposals has barely started,” wrote Andrews.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic