Ultra Low Emission Zone to be expanded London-wide

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) London-wide to tackle the threats of air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion.

The expansion will come into effect on Tuesday 29 August 2023 and will operate across all London boroughs up to the existing Low Emission Zone boundary.  

Toxic air pollution is a matter of life and death – with around 4,000 Londoners dying prematurely each year, children growing up with stunted lungs and a higher risk of dementia in older people. More than 500,000 Londoners live with asthma and are more vulnerable to the impacts of toxic air, with more than half of these people living in outer London boroughs.  

The ULEZ has already been successful in central and inner London, helping to reduce roadside pollution levels by 44 per cent in central London and 20 per cent in inner London. The Mayor believes that all Londoners have the right to breathe clean air.   

Expanding ULEZ London-wide will save 27,000 tonnes of CO2 in outer London, nearly double that which the central London ULEZ achieved in its first year of operation. Amongst other improvements, the expansion is forecast to make further progress to reduce air pollution, by reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from cars and vans in outer London by 10 and 7 percent respectively, and reducing PM2.5 car exhaust emissions in outer London by nearly 16 per cent, benefitting five million outer London residents. 

The ULEZ is a very targeted scheme to get the most polluting vehicles off the road.  Compliance within the current ULEZ area is now at 94 per cent, much higher than the 39 percent when ULEZ was first announced in 2017, and also higher than 85 per cent the month before previous expansion, and compliance in outer London is already around 85 per cent. This means that most drivers in outer London will not be impacted by the expansion London-wide.  

The announcement follows a public consultation which ran between May and July 2022, in which 59 per cent of respondents agreed that more needed to be done to tackle toxic air. A representative YouGov poll commissioned by City Hall also revealed nearly twice as many Londoners believe the Mayor’s proposed expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone should go ahead than oppose it.   

Sadiq announced plans for the expansion at Bonus Pastor School in Lewisham, an area with dangerously poor air quality, and spoke to students and stakeholders from across London about the dangers of toxic air and the importance of tackling it urgently.  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The latest evidence shows that air pollution is making us sick from cradle to the grave.  Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it’s especially dangerous for children due to the long-lasting impact on their health and life chances, with kids in our city growing up with stunted lungs.  

“The ULEZ so far has been transformational, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost a half in central London. But there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the health of young Londoners and leading to thousands of early deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths in the outer London boroughs. Expanding the ULEZ London-wide will mean five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives. 

“The rising cost of living has been a key consideration for me. That’s why I’m announcing that we will be introducing our biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110m – to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled Londoners, small businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles. All the money raised by ULEZ will be pumped back into funding local public transport and I’m pleased to announce today that we are planning the biggest ever expansion of the bus network in outer London.     

“Expanding the ULEZ London-wide has not been an easy decision. The easy thing for me would have been to kick the can down the road. But in the end, public health comes before political expediency. We have too often seen measures delayed around the world to tackle air pollution and the climate crisis because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient. But there’s no time to waste when people’s lives are on the line and we are facing a climate crisis.  As mayor, I’m not willing to turn a blind eye because it’s clear the cost of inaction – to our economy, to livelihoods, to the environment and the health of Londoners – would be a far too high a price to pay.  Expanding ULEZ is the right choice for our city and something that I know will help us to continue building a better, greener, fairer and healthier London for everyone.”   

Alex Williams, TfL’s Chief Customer and Strategy Officer, said: ”Expanding the ULEZ is vital for public health in this city. We know that there are more deaths that are attributed to toxic air in the city’s outer boroughs and that bringing in these world leading standards over a larger area will see millions more breathing cleaner air. Our experience of these schemes shows that they work, with significant reductions in pollution since the first zone was introduced in 2019. 

“As part of helping people to make the green transition, the Mayor has announced unparalleled support for people to scrap their older, more polluting vehicles. These groups include those that are essential to capital’s recovery, some of the most vulnerable in society and those that look after them. Following the consultation and taking on board the feedback from disabled people, we are extending the grace period for certain vehicles and widening the criteria for those who qualify. This could potentially benefit more than 280,000 people.  

“The recent report that evaluated the Mayor’s previous scrappage scheme showed around a third of people choose not to purchase a new vehicle at all and 22 per cent no longer have access to a vehicle in their household. With this new package we will also be helping people to make more sustainable journeys with free annual bus and tram passes. This will be complemented by significant improvements to the outer London bus network, making public transport a more attractive alternative to the car.”    

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation and World Health Organization Advocate for Health and Clean Air, said: “When we had the inquest, we got the experts in Ella’s case to give some recommendations and all of them agreed ULEZ expansion was something that needed to be done to clean up the air in London. 

“The Mayor, the government and councils are all aware of what the experts say about the dangers of air pollution, and expanding ULEZ London-wide will be a significant help in tackling this public health crisis. I commend the mayor for pushing this forward.  
“Clean air should be a human right, and with Ella’s Law currently passing through the Lords, this is something I am fighting for every day. But the expanded ULEZ across London is a big step in the right direction.” 

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “Reducing air pollution, improving public health, and fighting climate change all go hand in hand. Sadiq’s leadership is helping to clean London’s air and set an example for cities around the world. The faster cities make progress, the more lives we can save, and the better our chances of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.” 

Jeremy Leach, chair of London Living Streets, said: “The decision to expand the ULEZ to cover the 33 boroughs is a huge win for the health of all Londoners. London has long been a pioneer in Britain in tackling the enormous damage that air pollution causes directly through premature deaths and indirectly through long-term physical and mental damage. This is especially true for pedestrians who, all too often, have been walking along congested and polluted streets and roads. From summer 2023, everyone living, working and walking in outer London will benefit from cleaner air as well as having better access to public transport from the improved bus services.” 

Jane Burston, Chief Executive of Clean Air Fund said: “London is already at the forefront of national and global efforts to tackle air pollution, and the Mayor’s decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) shows why. At the Clean Air Fund, we’re heartened by modelling which demonstrates that this policy will improve the air quality around 145 schools, improving health and saving lives. We applaud Mayor Khan’s continued commitment to make progress on air quality in the capital.” 

Sarah Woolnough, CEO at Asthma + Lung UK, said: “The expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a huge win for everyone’s lungs. Asthma + Lung UK is delighted that the Mayor of London has listened to our campaigners. It is particularly significant for the 360,000* people with a lung condition in outer London who will now be included in the ULEZ. We hope this will lead to fewer premature deaths and fewer hospital admissions linked to air pollution. 

“Breathing in toxic air not only puts people at risk of potentially life-threatening asthma attacks and dangerous COPD flare-ups, it can also lead to the development of lung conditions. We urge other polluted cities to follow in London’s footsteps by introducing ambitious Clean Air Zones to protect everyone right to breathe cleaner air.” 

Oliver Lord, UK Head of the Clean Cities Campaign said: “This is a welcome next step in our fight for clean air in London and especially for people living on the most polluted roads. Anyone doubting this decision should take a long walk along the north and south circular and reason with the families living there why they don’t deserve cleaner air. 

“The Mayor’s determination and the critical concessions he has tabled to help people comply in this cost of living crisis are to be commended. We’re still trapped in this dirty decade of diesel and I urge City Hall to give us greater clarity now on what’s needed next so that everyone has time to prepare.” 

Dr Doug Parr, Policy Director at Greenpeace UK said:“It’s a breath of fresh air to see that the ULEZ is being expanded. In 2019 alone, 4,000 Londoners died due to toxic air, which disproportionately affects deprived communities, people of colour and people in London’s outer boroughs. It’s absolutely right that the Mayor is reducing vehicle air pollution – it’s better for individuals, better for communities and better for the planet.  

“We believe that cities across the UK and beyond should follow London’s example and bring in their own ultra low-emissions zones. The more cities that do, the better the quality of the urban environment and the fewer people that are forced to breathe in toxic air.”  

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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