London's ultra-low emission zone: good or bad idea?

(The Guardian, 5 Jan 2019) Campaigners say it will cut pollution, but opponents claim it will hit poor people hardest.

The case for: ‘Children’s lungs can’t wait’

“I’m just really glad the ULEZ is coming. Children’s lungs can’t wait,” says Jemima Hartshorn, a Brixton resident who helped set up campaign group Mums For Lungs.

London’s filthy air makes chronic illnesses worse, shortens life expectancy and damages lung development in children. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, mostly produced by diesel vehicles, have been illegally high since 2010 in the vast majority of urban areas in the UK. Noxious emissions make chronic illnesses worse and shorten life expectancy, typically by six months.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “London’s toxic air increases the risk of asthma and dementia and can damage children’s lung growth. The mayor has delivered a series of hard-hitting measures to tackle our filthy air, from cleaning up the bus fleet to introducing a toxicity charge in central London for the most polluting vehicles. A vital step will be the introduction of the ultra-low emission zone in April next year, which will be the toughest emission standard adopted by any city in the world and will improve air quality for millions of Londoners.”

Simon Alcock, head of public affairs at Client Earth, a firm of environmental lawyers, says the city has “no choice” but to bring in the ULEZ because of the already illegal levels of NOx in the city’s air. “If water was as dirty as our air, we would have taken action much earlier,” he says.

Earlier this year, the high court ruled that the government’s current policy on air pollution was unlawful, and ordered changes.

External link

The Guardian, 5 Jan 2019: London's ultra-low emission zone: good or bad idea?