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Mayors official defends ultra-low emission zone plans

Official says introducing ultra-low emission zone in London by 2020 will give vehicle manufacturers a “hefty shoveâ€? to improve emission standards

Introducing an ultra-low emission zone in London by 2020 will give vehicle manufacturers a “hefty shoveâ€? to improve emission standards, according to an official from the London Mayor’s office.

Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor’s environment and political affairs advisor, said that the proposed zone, first announced in February 2013 (see airqualitynews.com story), would “help the automotive industry to wake up and stimulate growthâ€?.

The London Mayor's environment and political affairs advisor, Matthew Pencharz

The London Mayor’s environment and political affairs advisor, Matthew Pencharz

He said: “These measures can actually help drive the market – the automotive industry can start producing cars that you will be able to drive in central London after 2020.â€?

However, he added that “the measures need to be feasible and reasonable in order to drive the market in the right directionâ€?.

Mr Pencharz’s comments came at the London Assembly’s Environment Committee meeting at City Hall today (July 11), at which London officials answered questions on the progress towards the London Mayor’s proposed ultra-low emission zone.

Although still in the early stages of planning, proposals would potentially see the zone cover a similar area as the congestion charge zone and only zero or low emission vehicles driving in central London during working hours after 2020.

Asked by the chair of the committee, Murad Qureshi, why the ultra-low emission zone would take another seven years to implement, Mr Pencharz said that the likes of air modelling, infrastructure, consultations and the legal effects of any implemented changes all took time to iron out.

Mr Pencharz said: “I think it is fair to give more time to motorists and businesses to implement changes.â€?

Feasibility

Jenny Jones, Green Party committee member, questioned the lack of targets for nitrogen dioxide reduction as part of the ultra-low emission strategy, describing Defra’s admission that London may not meet current EU limits for the pollutant until 2025 as “worryingâ€?.

In response, Mr Pencharz said that currently the ultra low emission zone proposals did not have set targets as more feasibility studies needed to be done.

Also presenting progress on the ultra-low emission zone alongside Mr Pencharz at the meeting was the managing director for planning at Transport for London, Michele Dix, who said that there were currently three packages being considered for a future ultra-low emission zone: “a moderate package, a high package and a very high packageâ€?.

She explained that the ‘very high package’ would have the most stringent measures to comply with and encompass a wider range of vehicles, but that TfL would now be carrying out feasibility studies to ascertain the availability of compliant cars, the impact on businesses and the impact on motorists’ behaviour.

Mrs Dix said: “We have to weigh up the pros and cons of the costs of compliance. At the end of the year we are going to come back with answers to many of these questions.â€?

She added: “What we haven’t done yet is look at how people will respond to emission standards and we also need to have discussions with manufacturers over the feasibility of changes to vehicle types.â€?

According to the Mayor’s office, recommended options on the ultra-low emission zone will be presented for public consultation in 2014.

Progress report

The Environment Committee meeting on the ultra-low emission zone came as a progress report on Mayor Boris Johnson’s air quality strategy, first announced in 2010, was also published.

The report provides updates on various measures the Mayor has taken to reduce air pollution over the last three years, such as retiring older taxis, introducing hybrid buses and the Clean Air Fund to help local authorities tackle particulate matter hotspots.

According to the report, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) have fallen by 20% and particulate matter emissions have dropped by 15% in London since the Mayor’s election in 2008.

However, the report also acknowledges that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have ‘barely changed (on average) over the past 15 years’, adding that reasons for this – such as Euro standards focusing on carbon dioxide reduction rather than air pollution reduction – are only more recently being understood and used to formulate air quality policy.

The report concludes that “more work needs to be done if London is to meet the EU limit values for NO2 and to continue reducing human exposure and the impact on public health of pollutants like particulate matterâ€?.

As a result, a series of measures – including the ultra-low emission zone – are also outlined in the report, such as the retrofitting of 900 buses, new measures to clean up construction sites and the Mayor’s £20 million air quality grant fund.

The Mayor’s progress report is available on the Greater London Authority website.

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[…] mayor Boris Johnson’s environment adviser told the London Assembly Environment Committee that the introduction of an ultra-low emission zone in London by 2020 will give vehicle manufacturers a “hefty shove” to improve emission standards. The […]