MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 26-Apr-19 14:41:05

Guest post: “The ULEZ is a bold measure – but a vital one.”

In this guest post the Mayor of London explains the motivation behind introducing the world’s first ever Ultra-Low Emission Zone.

Sadiq Khan

Mayor Of London

Posted on: Fri 26-Apr-19 14:41:05


Lead photo

“The natural environment that many of us took for granted throughout our lifetime is reaching a tipping point.”

London’s toxic air is an invisible killer and amounts to nothing short of a public health crisis. Thousands die prematurely every year in our city as a direct result of our polluted air, while many more develop life-changing illnesses including cancer, heart disease, dementia and asthma.

What makes this issue particularly scandalous is that it is our children who are among the hardest hit. They don’t contribute to the problem and yet they bear the brunt of it. In parts of London, for example, there are children growing up right now with stunted lungs because of exposure to filthy air – and this will affect them not just in the short-term, but for the rest of their lives.

As the Mayor of London, I’m not willing to shirk my responsibilities and turn a blind eye to young people in our city breathing dangerously polluted air. To do so would be to ignore the duty of care I have to our children. Protecting children’s health and life chances is surely a moral necessity in any civilised society. And so, that’s why my administration has chosen to push ahead with the boldest and most ambitious plans of any major city in the world to tackle air pollution. This includes supporting air quality audits around schools and nurseries to find ways we can improve the air our children breathe.

This month, we introduced the world’s first ever Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the toughest emission standard of any major city in the world. The ULEZ is the centrepiece of my campaign to clean up our dirty air and works by levying a daily charge on the oldest and most polluting vehicles entering central London. It is enforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and is designed to encourage more Londoners to get out of their cars and onto public transport, to switch to cleaner vehicles, or to walk or cycle. The ULEZ is set to expand even further in 2021, delivering benefits to all Londoners far beyond its boundaries.

We have made huge strides in the past in turning the tide on air pollution and environmental problems in London so there is no reason why we can't do so again.

Experts say the impact of the ULEZ will be transformative, with hazardous nitrogen oxides from exhaust pipes expected to be reduced by around 45 per cent. Along with a series of other measures we’re implementing – like no longer licensing new diesel taxis and buying only electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered buses – we will be able to deliver cleaner air for millions of Londoners. 75 percent of London’s buses now meet clean air rules – we’re aiming to make that 100 percent by 2020.

To give you some idea of the difference we can make, King’s College London estimates that without action it would take 193 years to bring London’s air quality to within legal levels. But with the action we’re taking, we can hope to achieve this goal in just six years. This means the number of schools in London in areas breaching air pollution will be reduced from over 450 today to just five in 2020 and zero in 2025.

We know that traffic emissions are the biggest source of air pollution in our city and that addressing them is key to solving the problem. This is what the ULEZ is all about and it’s also why we’ve been working hard to make public transport a more attractive and affordable alternative for Londoners with our four-year freeze on TfL fares, and the unlimited Hopper bus fare.

But this issue is larger than London, or indeed the rest of the UK, which is in the midst of a similar air quality crisis. As a father and a politician, I spend a lot of time thinking about the world we’re going to leave for future generations. The natural environment that many of us took for granted throughout our lifetime is reaching a tipping point.

Our children appear to grasp this better than many adults and are starting to take action – from online activism to the recent school climate strikes taking place in cities around the world. It’s now time for all of us to see the bigger picture and realise that we can be the first generation who gets it and finds solutions, and the last generation that fails to rise to the challenge.

We have made huge strides in the past in turning the tide on air pollution and environmental problems in London so there is no reason why we can’t do so again. Fewer than 70 years ago, the Great Smog claimed thousands of lives and the River Thames was so polluted it was declared biologically dead. It took brave and innovative policies to make change happen but we proved it was possible.

In 2019, we face a different challenge. Often we can’t see the tiny pollution particles that weave their way deep into our children’s lungs, but we know they are there and that they pose a deadly threat. So I make no apology for the tough action I’m taking.

The ULEZ is a bold measure – but a vital one. It does require Londoners to adapt, but in such circumstances inaction simply isn’t an option. After all, we owe it to our children to ensure the air they breathe is clean and safe, and that the planet we leave to them isn’t imperilled by environmental degradation and climate change.

We will be forwarding your questions on 02/05/2019

By Sadiq Khan

Twitter: @sadiqkhan

jackparlabane Fri 26-Apr-19 15:12:29

Can you clarify that car owners in the ULEZ whose cars don't meet the regs will only be charged when they drive them, not every single day? The publicity is vague on this crucial point.

Looking forward to more clean buses on the main road near me (outside current ULEZ but within the expanded one).

Penguincake Fri 26-Apr-19 17:00:38

This is yet again a tax on the poor who have the older cars that will not meet the regulations. The rich in London already have new cars that comply.

Penguincake Fri 26-Apr-19 17:03:55

I want to buy a second hand car. I used the online checker and the car I want complies with the current ULEZ standard but I do not know if it will comply with the 2021 standards. Is there anywhere to check this?

SDTGisAnEvilWolefGenius Fri 26-Apr-19 17:14:50

I agree with @Penguncake about this being incredibly unfair on the poorer people in society, who simply do not have the financial resources to buy a newer car or pay the ULEZ tariff!

Plus - what is the carbon footprint/ecological impact of getting rid of a functional vehicle and replacing it - especially cars with batteries? In so many areas of consumption, we are being encouraged to re-use, to mend and prolong the usage of the things we buy - but cars with years of work left in them can be replaced willy nilly.

BogglesGoggles Fri 26-Apr-19 17:29:31

People don’t drive in London unless they have to. Instead of merely punishing people who have to drive the mayor of London could help them with better public transport and safer streets to walk on!

araiwa Fri 26-Apr-19 17:29:41


Hopefully leads the way with other cities too


Zone4flaneur Fri 26-Apr-19 17:32:50

Thank you for being bold enough to introduce this- we are eagerly looking forward to the expanded zone in a couple of years. I'm looking forward to my kids being able to breathe clean air.

A question- does the mayor have any powers to compel the boroughs to provide better provision for electric car charging, including on-street? We do not have a car and have no plans to, but are in a zone 4 borough (Tory) which would be perfect for electric cars. The council are refusing to do anything progressive and of course most people do not have off street parking. Could councils be forced to include EV charging points where they have a new parking scheme implemented?

BSJohnson Fri 26-Apr-19 18:08:24

I would be a lot keener on the ULEZ (despite having to buy a new car as the diesel we bought on governmental advice in 2003 is now NOT green) IF it didn't end on the road I live on.

That road is the South Circular. Already horribly congested (I have to leave for work 30 minutes earlier than I did five years ago in order to arrive at the same time), it is now, as the boundary of the ULEZ, going to get even busier.

Thanks a bunch, Mr Khan. My children are going to suffer ill health because you aren't making any attempt to reduce the overall number of cars- you're increasing them for hundreds of families by diverting them. But I guess as we don't live in central London, we don't matter?

exaltedwombat Fri 26-Apr-19 18:22:59

The South Circular will be the boundary of the extended ULEZ in 2 years time. The one that recently started is the same as the existing Congestion Zone.

smeerf Fri 26-Apr-19 18:29:57

What jackparlabane said!

I have a perfectly servicable, albeit old, 3 series which I drive once or twice a week, the rest of the time it is parked on my driveway. It doesn't meet the requirements and I live within the extended ULEZ zone. In 2021 will I have to pay the charge every day (in which case I need to replace the car) or only on the days I drive?

It feels really wasteful to scrap a perfectly decent car and replace it considering I drive so little. But what's more worrying is that no one can tell me if it's necessary or not so I can plan accordingly!

Vulpine Fri 26-Apr-19 19:18:39

The only thing that's an attack on the poor is the pollution itself which is more likely to affect lower income families who are living near major roads

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Fri 26-Apr-19 20:02:19

This is yet again a tax on the poor who have the older cars that will not meet the regulations.

Not true.

The poorest are most likely to suffer from traffic air pollution as they are more likely to live in polluted areas and alongside main roads.

The poorest people in London do not own cars because car ownership costs. The poorest will be walking or travelling by bus as it is cheap. Bus passengers are disadvantaged by congestion-causing cars.

People don’t drive in London unless they have to.

I know loads of people who drive unnecessarily in London, including short distances which they acknowledge are just as quick to walk.

I am really glad this is finally being introduced. I wish the expanded zone was coming in sooner, and that polluting vehicles were banned rather than fined.

Like the smoking ban, once we are used to it we will wonder why we let people drive polluting cars around dense residential areas.

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 20:06:51

Where are all the trees you promised to plant?

There was a lot of talk of planting trees in your Manifesto, what happened?

Why are trees felled all around London? Why are building sites allowed to pollute the air?

It's not just the cars, it's building sites pollution that blights big parts of London. How do we deal with that?

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 20:17:47

Protect wildlife and biodiversity by creating green corridors through the city.

Where ate they?

Make London the rst ‘National Park City’ – setting a long term target to make more than 50 per cent of our city green and ensure that all children have access to nature.
*I am passionate about the amazing green spaces and views – commons, parks, heaths, playing elds and waterways – that do so much to
make London a fantastic place to
live. It is in these green spaces that our city’s biodiversity and wildlife is most concentrated, our children play and learn about nature, and we go to relax. With huge pressures on land for housing and other uses, it is essential that we maintain these spaces, and even expand upon them.*

These are all quotes from the Manifesto.

Where are the new green spaces? What do you do to protect the existing ones? Are you aware of the pressure they face,
from overpopulation and overdevelopment?

We are losing green mass everywhere, from trees to hedges, gardens and developments.

Reducing car usage is only a small part on cleaning up our air.

Also, why stop at the South Circular? It divides communities and it would be much better to have different boundaries.

BSJohnson Fri 26-Apr-19 20:21:04

Hear hear, Chardonnay.

There were three mature trees in front of the ten semis in my section of our road. They've all been cut down over the past five years, and one of the holes has been tarmacced over. So much for greening up London! hmm

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 20:24:48

Oh yes, why do we cut mature trees to accommodate the cycling highways? Isn't that counterproductive? We're going to have many mature trees replaces by saplings, and endure years of building work and building and additional traffic pollution.

Are all planned cycling highways needed anyway?

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 20:25:52

BS sometimes councils tarmac the place over until it's safe to plant another tree. Harass your local council until they replant.

BSJohnson Fri 26-Apr-19 21:10:11

We've tried.

Apparently, though, we can pay for it ourselves if we like!

If I could afford that, I wouldn't be living where I am. confused

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 21:15:00

Maybe Saddiq Khan will sponsor those trees for you?

Vulpine Fri 26-Apr-19 21:15:34

So now the cyclists are responsible for the lack of trees? Heard it all now. How's about pedestrianising Oxford st and planting it up with pocket parks? Or would that be too much greenery?

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 21:15:57


Sadiq Khan, of corse.

ChardonnaysPrettySister Fri 26-Apr-19 21:17:23

Not the cyclists. The people who plan the cycling highways.

As for Oxford Street, it was the Mayor's own Manifesto.

redstapler Fri 26-Apr-19 21:37:55

We will almost scrap our car in two years, at which point it'll be 8 years old. Not worth investing a four figure sum to put a filter on. We'd otherwise have kept it for at least another five years. So a new car will be made for us - very green. If this was really environmental rather than a money spinner, you'd fund the fitting of filters.

AndromedaPerseus Fri 26-Apr-19 22:15:17

Yes let’s scrap 100s of 1000s of perfectly serviceable cars and buy new ones which comply with ULEZ, which depending on who becomes the next government/Mayor of London may also need to be replaced within a few years. Half the cars on our road will have to be scrapped by 2021 to comply with the extended ULEZ but as long as Sadiq Khan gets his legacy then it’s all right!

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