All English cities should be enabled to introduce low emission zones

Air pollution poses a major public health risk to many people across England. It is estimated that around 40,000 people in the UK die prematurely each year from dirty air. Many parts of England, including outside London, routinely breach the legal limits on harmful nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. 
Low emission zones set minimum emissions standards for vehicles driving in urban centres. Motorists that drive vehicles which fail to meet those standards have to pay a charge. This charge ensures that motorists pay for the environmental and health costs associated with driving a polluting vehicle. Evidence from Cologne, Berlin, Stockholm, and other European cities shows that low emission zones are effective at reducing levels of air pollution. 

Even with the forthcoming introduction of the ultra-low emission zone for London, levels of air pollution are not forecast to fall below the legal limit before 2025. Moreover, many health experts believe that negative health effects occur at levels lower than the legal limit. The Government’s plan to introduce low emission zones (‘clean air zones’) in five English cities (Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton) in 2020 does not go far enough. Those cities that have been given low emission zones do not have sufficient flexibility to adapt the scheme to local needs. Many other cities haven’t been given low emission zones despite having illegal levels of air pollution. Germany has a national network of over 70 low emission zones. 

We call on the Government to establish a network of low emission zones across England by enabling all city councils to introduce them where air pollution is occurring. City councils should have the flexibility to exempt vulnerable groups from this charge and to levy it at times of the day when it is most necessary. Any revenue raised could be used to fund a diesel scrappage scheme, taking the most polluting vehicles off our roads for good. 

Bright Blue's campaign to give city councils the powers to establish low emission zones has been supported by the following organisations:

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Bright Blue is an independent think tank for liberal conservatism. Partner organisations do not necessarily endorse other Bright Blue policies

Bright Blue is still seeking support for its latest campaign on air pollution. If an organisation would like to add their voice to our campaign, please email Wilf Lytton ( for further details.