Ultra-Low Emission Zone to cover Greater London from August 2023

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On 25 November 2022, the Mayor of London announced plans to expand the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (“ULEZ”) in order to better tackle air pollution (the “ULEZ Expansion”). This change is planned to come into effect on 29 August 2023. The present ULEZ standards are not changing.

ULEZ

The central London ULEZ was introduced in April 2019 with inner London added in October 2021. Under the scheme, drivers of the most polluting vehicles are charged £12.50 to enter the area within London's North and South-Circular orbital roads, but the charge is not applied presently across Greater London.

Research reported by Transport for London (“TFL”) suggests that where it is in force ULEZ has been hugely successful so far, helping to reduce roadside pollution levels by 44 per cent in central London and 20 per cent in inner London. The ULEZ Expansion follows a public consultation held between May and July 2022, in which 59 per cent of respondents agreed that more needed to be done to tackle polluted air. It is estimated that around 85% of vehicles in outer London meet the ULEZ standards and will not incur the charge.

ULEZ standards and dates by when the standards were mandatory for all new vehicles

Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category) (2007)

Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars (2005), vans (2006), minibuses and other specialist vehicles

Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles (2014-2016).

Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and buses, minibuses and coaches weighing over 5 tonnes do not need to pay the ULEZ charge. They will need to pay the LEZ charge if they do not meet the LEZ emissions standard.

The ULEZ Expansion

The ULEZ Expansion generally will be to the Greater London Authority boundary, including all London boroughs. A map showing the updated boundary can be found on the TFL website.

To support the ULEZ Expansion, the Mayor of London has announced:

  1. A £110 million pound scrappage scheme for low income and disabled inpiduals, charities, micro-businesses, and sole traders to assist with taking the most polluting vehicles off the roads, planned to open in January 2023;
  2. Extension of the disabled benefits grace period (from January 2023 to October 2027) for eligible recipients of certain benefits; and
  3. A plan for improving the bus network in outer London, including but not limited to, two new routes in Sutton and new zero-emission cross-river services in East London (subject to further consultation).

TFL are to:

  1. Remove the annual £10 per vehicle Auto Pay registration fee, to make it easier for people with non-compliant vehicles to pay the charge; and
  2. Increase the penalty charge notice for non-payment of the ULEZ and Congestion Charges from £160 to £180 (or £90 if paid within 14 days) to ensure it remains an effective deterrent.

The official TFL consultation update can be found here, and the Mayor of London’s proposal can be found here.

Comment

The ULEZ Expansion has received a mixed response. However, the rationale is clear. In April 2021 the Assistant Coroner for Inner London, Philip Barlow, issued a Prevention of Future Deaths Report arising out of the second inquest into the death of 9-year-old Ella Adoo Kissi-Debrah who, in 2013, died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution. Ella lived near to the South Circular road. The noted findings in respect of Ella’s death by Mr Barlow were “Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbations of her asthma. During the course of her illness between 2010 and 2013 she was exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in excess of World Health Organization Guidelines. The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions. During this period there was a recognized failure to reduce the level of nitrogen dioxide to within the limits set by EU and domestic law which possibly contributed to her death”. Mr Barlow further stated “The national limits for particulate matter are set at a level far higher than the WHO guidelines. The evidence at the inquest was that there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements. Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK.”

On 31 October 2022, by law, new air quality targets for the UK were required to be published. The government’s explanation for their failure to do so is that they are considering responses following a consultation ending in June. In light of the void in this area the Royal College of Physicians has written to the government to urge them to publish the targets as soon as possible, with a clear commitment to reduce pollution from the toxic fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to 10μg m-3 by 2030. The RCP state that the “government’s proposal to reduce PM2.5 – one of the most harmful pollutants – by 2040 does not go far enough; reducing levels of PM2.5 to 10μg m-3 by 2030 is feasible and would not only deliver important benefits to health, but to the NHS and wider economy, with total economic benefits projected to be in excess of £380 billion.”

About Ella | The Ella Roberta Foundation

Senior health leaders say the government must publish targets to reduce air pollution without delay | RCP London

New ULEZ emissions charging operational today (cms-lawnow.com)

London – Air Quality Proposals Consultation (cms-lawnow.com)

Article co-authored by Alexandra Brown, Trainee Solicitor at CMS.