Ultra Low Emission Zone

MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Stephen Knight
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will your Ultra Low Emission Zone ensure compliance with EU legal limit values set for nitrogen dioxide across London?


Answer for Ultra Low Emission Zone

Answer for Ultra Low Emission Zone

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), Stephen, is part of the package of measures that will achieve this, and it will go a long way towards it; however you also have to go ahead with zero-emission-capable taxis, the programme that we are launching for zero emissions, essentially taxis with range extenders.  We think that we should remove the tax incentives for more polluting types of diesel cars.  One of the problems we have had, in common with many European cities, is that the Euro 6 vehicle emissions standard was not all it was cracked up to be, therefore we need that to be changed and improved as well.


If you take the ULEZ in conjunction with all the other things that we are doing on buses, on taxis, on cycling, on walking, improving air quality generally, we think that we can crack the problem of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and what will happen then is that London will comply with all nine of the air quality standards that we need to comply with.


Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, I am not sure you have answered the question, which is whether the ULEZ will ensure compliance with EU legal limits for nitrogen dioxide when it comes in 2020.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Do you want me to repeat the answer?


Stephen Knight AM:  I think you have accepted the fact that it will not.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Not on its own, however as part of a package it will.


Stephen Knight AM:  It will not do that and indeed I understand that compliance is not expected until five years later, in 2025 at the earliest.  Given that these are legal limits that were adopted by the European Union back in the 1990s and were supposed to be complied with by January 2010, more than four years ago, does it not show that your ULEZ is clearly not fit for purpose if it does not even deliver air quality at legal limits by 2020?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Getting back to where we started, we have already brought NOx down by 20% since I was elected, which is outstanding performance.  We have a huge package of measures, including the ULEZ.  We are proceeding with turning the taxis into zero emission capable vehicles.  That will be absolutely fantastic for the city.  We have loads of low-carbon buses on the streets now, and to get back to Len’s question earlier on, we will increase that, however ‑‑


Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, I am aware of all the things that you are doing, the question is whether they are enough.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I have answered your question, Stephen, very directly.  The ULEZ on its own will not crack it.  ULEZ will go a long way. However ULEZ has to be part of lots of other measures, accompanied by other measures.

Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, your Ultra Low Emission proposals as they stand at the moment, as I understand them, do not even require buses and taxis in 2020 to comply with Euro 6 standards, the standards which become the minimum from this year for new vehicles.  Mr Mayor, is it not true that you could have a much more rigorous ULEZ coming in six years’ time?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You could pastoralise the entire UK economy if you wanted to reduce ‑‑


Stephen Knight AM:  That includes stricter standards for buses and taxis so that they all comply with Euro 6 standards.  What is more, Mr Mayor, why does the ULEZ have to be restricted merely to the central London congestion zone? You have six years between now and 2020 to install the necessary infrastructure for a much wider zone across central London that could tackle the huge problems in outer London boroughs like Islington and Camden and Hackney and other parts of London that are all suffering from very poor air quality?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  There is a conversation that obviously we are having, Stephen, with places like Islington and Hackney and those other boroughs that you mention, about their possible membership of the ULEZ, and that is under discussion and I think there is a question about that very matter later on.  That is what we are doing there.


It does make sense though for us to look at the areas where the exceedances are really happening, let us look at where the air quality is foulest and let us deal with it there first.  What you are doing with the ULEZ is a big ask of consumers, a big ask of motor manufacturers, people buying cars, people who have bought cars in good faith, and you have to be very careful that you do not, when times are very tough --


Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, what about buses and taxis, we are not talking about private owners of cars, you are already insisting they are going to be Euro 6 standard; however, you are not insisting the same for buses and taxis.  With buses you are not insisting in your current proposals on Euro 6 compliance and with taxis you are not insisting on Euro 6 compliance either, indeed you are talking about 10-year-old, 12-year-old diesel taxis carrying on, on the streets of London, with no extra requirement.  We know that taxis alone account for 46% of all vehicle particulate matter in central London, which kills over 4,000 Londoners a year, therefore this is a fleet that needs to be cleaned up, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On the taxis, as ‑‑


Jenny Jones AM:  Those are Transport for London (TfL) figures.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ I am sure you know, we have not only instituted the first ever age limits for taxis under this administration, which meant retiring 3,000 of the oldest and most polluting taxis, which was never done before. This was of course very difficult for people for whom the taxi is, apart from their home, their most important investment, and we were asking them to forego that investment, to get rid of it, for the sake of air quality.  That was a very tough thing to do.  We have done it.


Now we are going to go forward with an ULEZ that will actually involve taxis being either plug-in hybrids or having range extenders, and one way or another, or indeed as Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse would doubtless say, possibly hydrogen or nuclear-powered taxis, and that again will involve a considerable psychological shift, it will be --


Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, there are things you could do now to help taxi drivers to convert because you have been promising since 2009 to implement a Cleaner Taxi Fund to help taxi drivers convert to low-emission vehicles and you have still failed to implement it.  You could right now implement a scheme to differential charging in the Congestion Charging Zone for diesel and petrol vehicles to give people incentives right away to start switching their vehicles without waiting six years until 2020.  There are things you could do right now to clean up London’s air and to ensure we get much cleaner air and we do get compliance by 2020.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  There are always --


Stephen Knight AM:  Why, Mr Mayor, are you not trying to do that?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  There are always measures, Stephen, that you can bring in, and it is always within the power of politicians to do things to affect the lives and livelihoods of people in all sorts of ways.  What you should not do is things that are unfair that will unnecessarily damage the economic prospects of people who work very hard and that come as a surprise and an unexpected blow.


We are going ahead with a very, very aggressive plan to make our taxis zero tailpipe emission within the central London zone, within the Congestion Charging Zone.  That is a fantastic thing to have on our agenda.  There is no other city that is doing that and to do it will require a great deal of negotiation and discussion with the taxi trade; however, it is the right thing to do.