Diesel Drivers To Be Charged Under New ULEZ

battersea smogDrivers of diesel cars face an extra £10 charge per day from 2020 to drive into central London under proposals for the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday.

Diesel vehicles which meet the Euro 6 emissions standard are likely to be exempt — new cars sold from 1 January 2015 will have to meet the Euro 6 – but drivers of petrol cars below Euro 4 (or more than 14 years old) will also find themselves having to pay the charge.

Earlier this year, the European Commission launched legal proceedings against the government over missing pollution targets in 2010. Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) estimates say a reduction in emissions of around 70% is needed to put London two thirds of the way to compliance by 2020. The mayor believes the ULEZ will deliver that reduction.

There’s been quite a lot of speculation about how the ULEZ would actually work, not to mention the question of whether or not a ULEZ charge would apply on top of the existing congestion charge. The answer is that it is expected to be, bumping the daily fee to drive a non-compliant car into London to £21.50, or £20.50 if using Auto Pay.

Diesel cars have long been perceived as better for the environment but aren’t great for local pollution levels. Government incentives, like placing them in lower Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bands encouraged more people to buy them, and the mayor has called on the government and the EC to follow London’s example by discouraging diesels under the ULEZ. 

The Green Party says that more than a quarter of cars are diesel, but they account for 60% of road traffic NO2 emissions across London. While some parties welcome the additional charge, it stops short of an outright ban and turns the charge into a fine. Labour AM environment spokesperson, Murad Qureshi agrees:

“Instead of banning diesel vehicles completely from an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, the Mayor is simply fining them £10 for the privilege. And by not implementing this until 2020, Boris is kicking the problem into the long grass. By that time, Boris will have left City Hall four years previously, and around 51,000 Londoners will have died prematurely since he took office in 2008.”

Green Party AM Jenny Jones also tweeted that the ULEZ will only cover around 7% of London’s roads while Clean Air in London founder Simon Birkett published a statement ahead of the mayor’s announcement:

“Boris is backtracking on his own plan to ban the most-polluting diesel vehicles from Central London from 2020 by allowing these vehicles to drive in for a tenner a day.”

The Public Health England (PHE) organisation has said at least 25,000 deaths in England were linked to pollution, with Oxford Street having the highest NO2 levels in the world. The mayor’s environment and energy advisor Matthew Pencharz disagrees:

“Pollution levels in London are in fact lower than in many other world cities: average levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from monitoring sites near busy roads in Stuttgart, Paris, Munich, Rome and Milan are all higher than those recorded for London.”

Boris Johnson also said back in March that the ULEZ would negate any need for emergency pollution-tackling measures like the ones made in Paris. In his speech last night, the mayor said:

“Improving London’s air quality is an urgent challenge, it affects the health and well-being of all Londoners, and it simply cannot be put on hold. Here at City Hall we are doing everything in our power to address it. At the heart of this are my plans for the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020. This will be a game changer, but with just a little more energy, ambition and action from Westminster and from Brussels, London can meet the EU limits for NO2 by 2020. It is possible, and together we can make it happen.”

Photo by kyle_ch in the Londonist Flickr pool.

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  • mk

    Nice avoidance of the question there by Matthew Pencharz, responding to a question about Oxford St with average NO2 levels. Is there a fact check on that? I’m not sure that those other cities have higher average levels than London, and of course, it depends whereabouts those monitors are placed and at what distance from street level (I’m reminded of the Mayor’s efforts to skew the figures at the Upper Thames St site by placing all manner of plants and fauna immediately around the monitor).

    In any case, Pencharz can’t “disagree” with NO2 levels on Oxford St that have been *measured* by a machine.

    It’s fact. Agreeing or disagreeing doesn’t come into it.

  • Stefan

    Is that similar to the low emission zone that Ken suggested a while ago, but Boris scrapped right when he took office?
    Just stop talking about it, do it. 2020 is a little late isn’t it?

  • shusa2013

    Two papers by credible sources were released in Europe in May
    that state that diesel is not the primary cause of NOx and PM pollution in
    Europe.

    According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe paper entitled
    “Diesel Engine Exhausts: Myths and Realities”:

    “From the data and facts mentioned above, we conclude with a high degree
    of reliability that it is misleading to claim that people’s exposure to diesel
    engines of road motor vehicles is the cause of increased risk of lung cancer.

    “Eighty three percent of particulate matters emissions in European Union
    countries (EEA, 2012a) and 97 percent in the United States of America (EPA
    2013) and Canada is generated by other economic sectors, mainly the commercial,
    institutional and household sector.

    “Therefore, the claim that emissions from diesel engine exhausts from road
    transport are the main cause of lung cancer in humans needs to be seriously
    challenged. It does not mean however, that measures to improve the
    environmental performance of the transport sector can stop. On the contrary,
    they must continue and in an aggressively well targeted way.”

    The 2nd paper supported by the several agencies including the Swiss Federal
    Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), the Swiss
    National Science Foundation, the EU commission, the UK Natural Environment
    Research Council (NERC), the French Environment and Energy Management

    Agency.concludes:

    “Cars and trucks, particularly diesel vehicles, are thought to be the main
    vehicular pollution sources. This needs re-thinking, as we show that elevated
    particulate matter levels can be a consequence of ‘asymmetric pollution’ from
    two-stroke scooters, vehicles that constitute a small fraction of the fleet,
    but can dominate urban vehicular pollution through organic aerosol and aromatic
    emission factors up to thousands of times higher than from other vehicle
    classes.”

    In addition, in its 2014 “State of the Air” report for the U.S., the
    American Lung Association cited the new clean diesel fleet as being one of the
    two primary reasons for improved air quality in the U.S.

  • Beth Williams

    It is ridiculous to impose yet another tax. If the diesel engines really are such a problem then a limit should be placed on numbers of vehicles (including buses and coaches) using this type of fuel in london.