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Just six months after London's Ultra Low Emission Zone was introduced, the city has seen air pollution reduced by a third, officials said this week. (Photo: Pedro Szekely/Flickr/cc)

In Just Six Months, London's "Brave" Vehicle Emissions Rule Slashed Air Pollution by a Third

Designated zone for low emissions "shows what we can achieve if we are brave enough to implement such ambitious policies."

Julia Conley

A London traffic policy has in just six months succeeded in sharply reducing toxic emissions and achieving better air quality in the city, according to city officials.

Mayor Sadiq Khan designated large portions of the fourth-most populous European city as an "Ultra Low Emission Zone" (ULEZ) last April, and revealed in an NPR interview on Tuesday that the plan's implementation is directly linked to a 36 percent reduction in toxic nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Khan praised the results as "a huge improvement as we work to clean up toxic air and protect our children's lungs."

The ULEZ rule subjects drivers to a charge of £11.50 (almost $15) if they drive in the designated low-emission zone between the hours of 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. Daily fees are even higher for drivers with older cars that don't meet current emissions standards.

The regulation has reduced daily traffic by more than 13,000 cars. The revenue from ULEZ fines is going toward improving London's public transportation network, making the city's 9 million residents even more likely to use public transit.

ULEZ has also reduced carbon emissions in the city by four percent, green transportation campaigner Kate Laing wrote.

The ULEZ rule met opposition last year. A petition asking to stop implementation of the rule was signed by 95,000 people.

Khan said Tuesday that taking action against toxic emissions and the climate crisis requires bravery from elected officials, and called on federal lawmakers to follow London's lead.

"I am determined to stop Londoners breathing air so filthy it is damaging our children's lungs and causing thousands of premature deaths," Khan said in a statement. "The ULEZ shows what we can achieve if we are brave enough to implement such ambitious policies."

"I now hope the government will match my ambition and amend their environment bill to ensure it has the legally binding WHO-recommended limits to be achieved by 2030 that we need to protect public health," the mayor added.

Meanwhile, a new report released Tuesday about increased air pollution in the U.S. illustrated Khan's point that bold action can rapidly improve outcomes—by showing increasing emissions in the U.S. after regulatory rollbacks.

Weakened federal regulations are contributing to more air pollution and premature deaths in the U.S. over the past two years, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University reported.

On social media, one cyclist wrote that London appears far ahead of even U.S. cities that are currently implementing climate action.


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