The UK Has More Clean Air Zones Than Any Other Country

October 27, 2022
Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

New research conducted by GoShortly reveals that the United Kingdom now has a total of 22 CAZs (Clean Air Zones). The country is currently one of the global leaders in terms of the number of low-emission zones or LEZs. Italy tops the list with its 253 zones while Germany comes next with 82.

The top 10 European countries with LEZs include France and the Netherlands with 16 each, Sweden and Spain with eight zones each, Austria with seven, and Denmark and Belgium with four zones each. While statistics are different for each country – such as the number of vehicles driving on the road, population (size and density), air pollution, and congestion rate – it is still a fact that the UK has more CAZs than most other places in the world.

It is also worth noting that around 320 countries in Europe now have their low emission zones, a number that has gone up by at least 40% from 2019. Over the next three years, approximately 200 LEZs are expected to start operations.

What CAZs are for

Traffic congestion is a primary contributor to air pollution, especially if diesel vehicle emissions are high. It’s one of the reasons why places such as Istanbul and Bogota, two of the world’s most congested cities, are surrounded by toxic air. Around 62% of the roads in Istanbul are congested while residents of Bogota in Colombia spend 126 hours of their time each year on the road, stuck in traffic.

The introduction of Clean Air Zones or Low Emission Zones has helped lessen congested areas and toxic emissions.

Clean Air Zones are areas in cities or towns where highly polluting vehicles are not allowed to go through without paying any charge. CAZs encourage drivers to switch to cleaner, non-polluting vehicles or learn how to travel using public transport. This is the reason why authorities are collecting fees from drivers of highly polluting vehicles.

The London LEZ is the most popular low-emission zone, but the rest of the UK has also started Clean Air Zones of their own.

There are two emission-restricting zones in London – the LEZ and the ULEZ or Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. The ULEZ area expands to the Circular roads (North and South) and implements stricter rules and regulations. If a vehicle releases high volumes of emissions, they cannot enter the zone unless they pay a charge – £100 for coaches and buses weighing over 5 tonnes and other heavy vehicles and £12.50 for cars, vans, and motorcycles.

The CAZ in Bath started operating in March 2021 but does not apply to motorbikes and private cars. It applies to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), taxis, and other vehicles used for businesses.

Scotland’s Glasgow city centre has a Clean Air Zone that opened in December 2018. It is a two-phase plan: the first one applies to local buses while the second one is intended for highly polluting vehicles that need to adhere to specific emissions standards to get into the zone. The second phase is expected to be set into action by 2023.

The Birmingham CAZ is in operation 24/7, 365 days a year. It is intended for non-compliant cars and private vehicles and is to be implemented on all the roads in the A4540 Middleway Ring Road (but not the Middleway itself). A daily charge is needed for high-emission vehicles to enter the zone.

These are the other Clean Air Zones in the UK:

  • Aberdeen (to cover pre-Euro VI diesel vehicles registered before 2015 and pre-Euro IV petrol vehicles registered before 2006) – Set to open this year with a two-year grace period, so non-compliant vehicles can only be fined after May 2024
  • Manchester – Expected to start in July 2022 but has yet to be launched
  • Newcastle – Originally set to begin in January 2021 but was pushed back to 2022
  • Edinburgh – Introduced last May 2022 and operations are expected to start in June 2024
  • Dundee – LEZ was launched in May 2022
  • Sheffield – LEZ will be introduced in spring 2023

Nitrogen oxide emissions

The existing CAZs have effectively reduced emissions around the UK, although a lot of work still needs to be done. Vehicles releasing high-polluting nitrogen oxide still abound in numbers but there is progress.

Nitrogen oxide or NOx emissions are pollutants that come from diesel engines. It grabbed the spotlight in 2015 when the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal involving the Volkswagen Group broke out.

US authorities found defeat devices installed in VW and Audi vehicles that were sold to American drivers. These devices are designed to cheat emission tests so that a vehicle would appear fuel-efficient even if it emits massive amounts of nitrogen oxide when driven on real roads.

Nitrogen oxide emissions have adverse effects on the environment and human health. Serious health impacts include cardiovascular diseases, asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and premature death. NOx also affects a person’s cognitive abilities and can trigger anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related issues.

Mercedes-Benz, Renault, BMW, and many other carmakers are also involved in the diesel emissions scandal.

Diesel claim

Drivers affected by the diesel emissions scandal can bring a claim against their carmaker for the deception and exposure to NOx. However, eligibility should first be verified with the help of Get help from their panel of emissions experts and start working on your emissions claim process.

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