Is a clean air zone enough to tackle London’s traffic pollution?

In the UK, air pollution is the cause of nearly 40,000 deaths each year and contributes to serious, long-term health issues for hundreds of thousands of people. Declared a national crisis, London mayor Sadiq Khan is looking to improve quality of life for Londoners by preventing air pollution—starting with traffic in Central London. The mayor is extending the city’s low emission zone to cover a wider span of London, extending from the center to the North and South Circular roads. Not only will London feature more Clean Air Zones, the mayor, along with other leaders across England and Wales, is hoping to ban sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030. Let’s dive deeper into the plan underway and see how a capital city like London aims to clean up its dirty air to create a more pleasant environment for its citizens to live in.- Bruno De Man     


Pollution-free capital

In 2021, London will extend its “ultra-low emission zone” to larger sections of the city, encompassing boroughs like Camden, Hackney, and Haringey. Since children are some of the most affected by traffic pollution, which can cause asthmas attacks, stunted lung growth, and breathing disorders, the city is also leading a four-year study to measure the effects of toxic air on primary school children. The project will monitor the health of children living in the capital, where low-emission zones are enacted, and compare results with those of children living in polluted areas like Luton. The new zone will have a large reach, with 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans, and 3,000 lorries affected daily, according to The Guardian. The 24-hour zone will charge “non-compliant” vehicles a daily fee of £12.50 (around €14), while some of the largest offenders like buses and coaches will face charges of £100 to £300 (around €113 to €340). In addition to charging pollution-heavy vehicles for entering the city, the zone will also help monitor particulate matter, since the city exceeds the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines. According to Khan, “Air pollution is not an isolated problem, it’s a national health crisis. Our country’s filthy air is shortening lives, damaging lungs, and severely impacting the NHS.” The city is also partnering with leaders across the UK in an attempt to phase out sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, as well as introducing electric vehicle infrastructure—steps that would significantly lower levels of air pollution while placing the city in the global spotlight as a leader in low emission technology.