As earlier announced, London is expanding its environmental zone. Almost all of London will become an ultra-low-emission zone (ULEZ) as of today. The measure is intended to tackle pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the air quality for residents and visitors.
But not everybody is happy with the new ultra-low-emission zone because it will also include neighborhoods with less public transport and where people depend more on their own transport. According to critics, the plan is unluckily timed, as people already struggle with the cost of living.
Surcharge of £12,50 daily
The ULEZ also implies that users of polluting cars will have to pay a surcharge of £12,50 (about €14,50) daily. A fine of up to £180 (more than 200 euros) is imposed if they don’t pay the charge.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan thinks the measure will only affect one out of ten cars. A budget of £110 million has been released for affected car users. The money can be used to compensate residents with disabilities or low incomes. Despite objections from five local governments led by the Conservative Party, the Court gave the green light for the zone’s expansion.
‘Further bold measures’
The ultra-low-emission zone in the British capital was introduced in 2019 and applied to the most central parts of the city. In October 2021, the zone was expanded from the inner city to the suburbs in the first phase.
Still, Khan said afterward that “further bold measures” would be necessary to improve air quality and stop congestion. He also said it was a matter of social justice, with the poorest communities being hit harder by the pollution of bad air quality.
As of today, the ULEZ will be expanded to cover almost all of Greater London. The number of residents in the zone has increased from four to nine million.
Resistance is growing
The measure will hit lower-class families and people who depend on their cars for a living. Moreover, few exceptions are made. However, anyone living in London can get a £2 000 scrap premium for his old car, but that is not enough to buy a new one.
So, resistance to the plan is growing, and, as a result, 387 ULEZ cameras have been destroyed, obscured, or stolen between April and mid-August. According to the London police, the so-called ‘Blade Runner’ activists wage war on the eco-scheme that aims to reduce CO2 emissions in the city. Common methods they use include cutting the camera’s wires, painting over the lens, or completely removing the device.
‘Crucial for public health’
Mayor Khan, however, sticks to his guns. “The measure is crucial for public health,” the city council says. According to a 2019 study by the Imperial College London, about 4 000 people die early in the British capital from conditions “attributable to air pollution”. Although the cause of death is rarely explicitly stated in the death certificate.
The danger of inhaling smog took on a face ten years ago with the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah. The girl died on February 15th, 2013, of an asthma attack.
Ella Kissi-Debra lived in the southeast of London, in Lewisham, to be more specific, just 25 meters from the busy South Circular Road, where levels of nitrogen dioxide from traffic constantly exceeded the annual legal level of 40 µg/m3 between 2006 and 2010.
The British Court decided that the nine-year-old girl’s death was caused by air pollution. It was the first time a British Court linked a death case to pollution.