New mayor of London calls air pollution ‘our biggest environmental challenge’ and plans to bring the increased ultra low emission zone into force early
The new mayor of London Sadiq Khan has made his first major policy announcement, unveiling plans to substantially increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone to tackle the capital’s illegal air pollution levels.
The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) – which could also now come into force earlier than planned – will require drivers of the 2.5m oldest and dirtiest vehicles to pay a charge. Owners of cars that fail to meet the standards will pay a £12.50 charge, separate to the congestion charge.
The scheme is intended to act as an incentive to drivers to use cleaner vehicles or alternative transport to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles.
Under Khan’s plans, which will now be subject to a public consultation, the ULEZ will stretch from the north to south circular roads in London rather than just the much smaller congestion charge zone in central London as currently planned. Officials said the area covered will more than double in size.
Khan said his predecessor, Boris Johnson, had been too slow to act and had left the city a “laughing stock” internationally, and the government had been “hopelessly inactive” on the issue. Officials said the ULEZ, under a consultation to be published within weeks, could now come into force as soon as 2019 rather than the original plan of 2020.
“I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean up London’s air – our biggest environmental challenge,” Khan said at a school in east London. He said London had only acted on pollution in the past after emergencies, such as the Great Smogs of the1950s: “But I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to match the scale of the challenge.”
The mayor’s office also said an extra charge on the most polluting vehicles would be brought in from 2017, which would be administered by the congestion charge system but be separate to the congestion charge. It is not yet clear what that charge will be.
Read more: The Guardian