Labour politician defends controversial emissions scheme, as the UK’s Conservative government prepares to row back on its green targets.
London’s low-emissions zone is the “best two-for-one offer” ever according to the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who has pushed ahead with the policy despite fierce opposition from drivers and political dissent in his own party.
Khan said air pollution was “an invisible killer,” during a session at the Concordia Annual Summit in New York, arguing that his ultra low-emissions zone — known as ULEZ — tackles both air pollution and climate change.
“The same things that cause climate change cause air pollution — nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon emissions,” he said. “You deal with one, you deal with the other: it’s the best-ever two-for-one offer you will ever receive.”
Under ULEZ rules, higher-polluting vehicles are charged £12.50 ($15.46) a day. In August the zone was expanded from covering the inner part of London to the whole of the city, controversially including suburban neighborhoods.
In one of those areas, Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the Conservatives won a special election in July following Boris Johnson’s resignation as a Member of Parliament. The Tory victory was partly attributed to the unpopularity of ULEZ, with some of Khan’s colleagues in the opposition Labour party questioning his pursuit of the policy.
The Conservatives have since rowed back on the government’s green targets, with an announcement expected by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak later today. Home Secretary Suella Braverman cited the rejection of ULEZ by voters in Uxbridge when defending the government’s change of tack on Times Radio this morning.
Khan said he’s aware of the political dangers of pushing ahead with green policies such as ULEZ, during an interview with Bloomberg News yesterday.
“I recognize we’ve got to make sure we take people with us, I recognize that we need to address people’s concerns,” he said.
Opposition politicians have argued that ULEZ does not tackle both air quality and climate change. A report by City Hall — the mayor’s administration — found that it had reduced carbon dioxide levels by just 4% in central and inner London.
Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told BBC London that ULEZ “does nothing for climate change.”
Davey said ULEZ is also “actually very poor on air pollution.” Research by FactCheck said the expansion would add 13 minutes to the average London life expectancy, while an impact assessment commissioned by the mayor found that the expansion would only cause a “minor reduction” in nitrogen dioxide.
Nine in 10 cars driving in outer London are already compliant with ULEZ and not eligible for the charge.
Neil Garratt, the leader of City Hall’s Conservatives, told the BBC that he was “alarmed to hear the mayor claim that expanding ULEZ will cut carbon emissions.”
“It won’t and he knows it because his own report spells it out,” he added. “So why is he claiming otherwise at this conference?”
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