London Assembly Members push government for Berlin-style emissions zone

London Assembly Members will urge the government to launch a Berlin-style low emissions zone before the 2012 Olympic Games, requiring cars to display a coloured window sticker indicating their impact on air quality, which would allow certain vehicles to be banned from highly polluted zones.

Murad Qureshi, chairman of the assembly’s environment committee, told BusinessGreen he is planning to contact the Department for Transport or DVLA to look at how a national classification system of vehicles’ emission levels could operate.

Some members of the committee decided to pursue the idea yesterday, after Transport for London (TfL) and the City of London published separate and conflicting studies into the predicted success of a central Low Emissions Zone (LEZ).

The City of London‘s report showed that a very low emission zone would be effective in cutting pollution and meeting European Union limits of PM10, by allowing only the cleanest vehicles to enter central London.

Significantly, the City’s study also found that a central LEZ could meet EU nitrogen dioxide limits by a 2015 deadline, 10 years earlier than Defra has predicted. However, this would only be achieved if the scheme was tightened further to permit only the cleanest vehicles, classified as Euro 6 standard, in the zone.

However, the City of London’s report conflicted with a separate study by TfL, which showed that the economic costs of a inner LEZ would outweigh the environmental benefits.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s director of environment, said TfL had shown that a central LEZ was unnecessary. "[It] would be a sledge-hammer to crack a nut in policy terms, delivering minimal benefits to air quality at a high cost to London’s drivers and businesses," he said.

However, the committee doubted TfL’s results because it had failed to consider the health benefits of such a scheme. Simon Birkett, founder and director of Clean Air in London, said TfL’s report was flawed.

"It ignores completely: health benefits; the need to comply cost effectively with legal deadlines; and the need to avoid transport chaos during the 2012 Olympic Games," he said.

TfL also refused to examine a scheme that would be enforced using window stickers because the UK does not have a national vehicle classification scheme based on air quality.

German law allows its cities to implement environmental zones (Umweltzonen) in which vehicles may be banned from travelling in areas of high PM pollution. The zones use colour-coded windscreen stickers to identify the pollution class of vehicles and are enforced manually. Cities may choose which pollution classes are banned and when.

Qureshi said TfL had failed to examine every option and he would now contact  the government to see if London could implement a Berlin-style scheme.

"We have heard differing views on what could and should be done to tackle polluting vehicles. We will now pursue this with government to establish whether a Berlin-style scheme would be possible for London," he said.

Darren Johnson, Green Party assembly member, also urged the Mayor to introduce a central LEZ in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"The report from the City of London proves that a very Low Emission Zone would reduce pollution, improve the health of Londoners and enable us to avoid European fines," he said.

"The Mayor should get on with implementing such a scheme in time for the Olympic Games. London needs urgent action and only allowing the cleanest vehicles into central London is the best solution we have."

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