Background and Ultra Low Emission Zones

Since 1993 the London Air Quality Network of King’s College London has coordinated the monitoring of air pollution across 30 London boroughs and Heathrow, and has noted that in 2005–06 almost all road and curbside monitoring sites across greater London exceeded the annual average limits for nitrogen dioxide of 40 μgm-3 (21 ppb), with eleven sites exceeding the hourly limits of 200 μgm-3 (105 ppb) on at least 18 occasions each.

Ultra low emissions zone

Plans for an Ultra low emissions zone, to be implemented in 2020, are under consideration. Diesel vehicles are to be targeted because they produce relatively high levels of particulates.[23]

What are low emission Zones?

Low Emission Zones are areas where the most polluting vehicles are regulated. Usually this means that vehicles with higher emissions cannot enter the area. In some low emission zones the more polluting vehicles have to pay more if they enter the low emission zone. Low Emission Zines are also known as Environment Zones, Umweltzonen, Milieuzones, Lavutslippssone, Miljozone, Miljözon, ZTL ambiente.

Low Emission Zones are often the most effective measure that towns and cities can take to improve air pollution. Low emission zones reduce emissions of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and (indirectly) ozone, the three main air pollutants of concern in Europe.

Fine particulates are also known as PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micrometre in diameter) or PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 5 micrometre in diameter). A micrometre (μm) is a millionth of a metre (A human hair is about 90 µm in diameter). These fine particulates enter our bodies through its defences and cause damage to our hearts and lungs. Vehicle emissions are classified by the “Euro standards”. In some Low Emission Zones fitting a diesel particulate filter can allow a vehicle access to a Zone.

All low emission zones affect heavy duty goods vehicles (usually over 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)), and most affect buses and coaches. Some Low Emission Zones also affect vans, cars and motorcycles, see our Overview of Low Emission Zones. Next you need to find out the emissions standards of your vehicle. Then check if this emissions standard is allowed into the zone. Most Low Emisson Zones operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Why Low Emission Zones?

Low Emission Zones are implemented in areas where air pollution levels are dangerous to health. Low Emission Zones improve the air quality and make it safer to breathe. Air pollution is responsible for 310 000 premature deaths in Europe each yeari. This is more deaths than caused by road accidentsii. The human health damage from air pollution is estimated to cost the European economy between €427 and €790 billion per yeariii. The European Union and the World Health Organisation have set EU Air Quality Standards to protect our health. The air in many cities in Europe struggles to meet these Air Quality Standards.

Air pollution most affects the very young and the old and those with heart and lung diseases. Heart and lung diseases are both common causes of death in Europe. Air pollution also triggers health problems like asthma attacks and increases hospital admissions and days off sick. Diesel emissions have been classified as carcinogenic (causing cancer) by the World Health Organisation, which means that reducing diesel emissions is especially important for health. You can find out more details on these issues from the World Health Organisation air quality pages.

Where does it operate?

The Low Emission Zone covers most of Greater London.

Vehicles registered outside GB

If you’re driving a vehicle registered outside Great Britain (this includes vehicles registered in Northern Ireland), you’ll need to register it with us to let us know that it meets the Low Emisson Zone standards so we can add your vehicle to our database.

It’s important that you do this, because if you drive in the Low Emission Zone without registering, even if your vehicle meets the standards, you’ll have to pay the daily charge, or may receive a Penalty Charge Notice.

Plans for the future

By reducing traffic pollution, our aim is to improve the health and quality of life of everyone visiting, working in or living in London. The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy published in December 2010 has more information about the link between particulate matter and health.

Previously it was proposed that all buses, coaches and lorries would need to meet a London-wide standard for emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in 2015. Applying this standard to our buses only will still deliver 75% of the benefits of the original proposal while saving operators £350m in avoided costs which would have been required to clean up their vehicles under the original proposal.

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