Sustainable Cities – Low Emission Zones

from previous posts you’ll have read about the serious challenges of air pollution in developed cities. In the UK London introduced the first low emission zone (LEZ) and, five years on, some interesting findings have been recently published.

Recent research by Elison, Greaves, & Hensher (2013) – Five Years ofLondon’s low emission Zone: Effects on vehicle fleet composition and air quality – in Transportation Research shows that from 2001, data on levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, both produced by traffic, were recorded at four locations, three within the LEZ and one 25 km away. Particulate matter concentrations were found to be stable or decreasing at the three sites within the LEZ, after introduction of the scheme.  Nitrogen oxide concentrations fell both inside and outside the LEZ and were not significantly different between locations. Overall, the authors conclude that the LEZ  has had a substantial impact in the composition of the vehicle fleet, increasing the proportion of low-emission vehicles. This in turn has led to a small but significant  improvement in air quality.
Whilst it’s evident that a low emission zone appears to be having an effective impact on London, the ‘zone’ approach isn’t for every city. Not all cities have the economic stability or resilience of London but there are other measures you can introduce that will have an effect.
Reasearch from The University of Oxford (Brand, Anable, & Tran (2013)) published in Transportation Research ‘Accelerating the transformation to a low carbon passenger  transport system: The role of car purchase taxes, feebates, road taxes and scrappage  incentives in the UK’ shows ‘feebate’can be an effective policy option to aid the transition to a more environmentally-friendly transport system, a UK study suggests. This combinationof fees and rebates can increase the take-up of low-carbon cars, the researchers argue, which leads to reduced life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The research clearly illustrates that a combination of more sophisticated policy tools is needed to both encourage the uptake (purchase) of new, cleaner, vehicles and to discourage dirtier vehicles. The results suggest that, amongst the policy options tested, feebate policies would be especially effective at reducing the four factors  studied. Under these policies, there is an additional fee to purchase cars that emit high amounts of CO2, but a financial reward to purchase low-emission vehicles.
Under the most ambitious of these schemes, which included increasingly strict  feebates, it was predicted that 6% fewer cars would be bought, compared to business-as-usual, by setting fees of up to £8000 (€9464) and rebates of up to £4000 (€4732) per new car.

Author: Andy Nolan

An experienced director-level professional with expertise in sustainable development, cities, universities, governance, policy and strategy. 15 years of experience working in the field of sustainability in both the private and public sector. Has worked within a local authority, in multi-authority partnerships locally and nationally. Experience in higher education across four universities in the UK plus representative bodies. Particular areas of interest and expertise include; energy; transport; climate change; waste management; air quality; decentralised energy; education for sustainability; smart cities; knowledge transfer; research.

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