London’s eco-city aspirations and the role of electric vehicles

Since becoming the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn has made the twin crises of toxic air and the climate emergency a major priority. That has seen the introduction of a number of policies aimed at reducing the impact of air pollution and climate change on the city, and the planet.

This has culminated in an ambitious strategy to make London a zero-carbon city by 2050. Published last year, his strategy sets out a vision for London’s environment in 2050 and is the first time approaches to tackle every aspect of London’s environment have been brought together in the same document. That includes policies to clean up the capital’s toxic air, increase its green cover, reduce waste and tackle climate change.

London’s eco-city aspirations

Some of the ambitious aims in London’s 2050 Environment Plan include:

  • Introducing new measures to tackle London’s air pollution, including the creation of air quality maps and bringing forward the city’s first zero emission zones (ZEZ) from 2025 to 2020.
  • Making the capital the world’s first National Park City, with a series of events planned to encourage Londoners to explore their green spaces and make their neighbourhoods greener.
  • Setting targets to cut London’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030.
  • Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in London for the next 15 years.
  • Creating a new definition of green infrastructure to ensure wetlands and rivers are recognised as critical components of the city’s green network.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

The most recent initiative to impact the roads of London has been the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which now operates 24 hours a day on every day of the year within the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge. If vehicles do not meet the ULEZ emissions standards, drivers must pay a daily charge to drive within the zone.

From October 2021, the ULEZ will be expanded up to the North and South Circular boundary to create an area that’s 18 times larger than the current central London ULEZ. By tackling the most polluting cars, the expanded ULEZ will help to transform the air that millions of Londoners breathe and will ensure 100,000 Londoners no longer live in areas that exceed legal air quality limits.

The role of the electric car

London’s toxic air is currently responsible for 9,500 premature deaths and other serious conditions every year, with new reports suggesting air pollution kills as many people in Britain as smoking. Although car ownership is falling in London, it will never be possible to eliminate the need for vehicles, which is why more must be done to help people choose the cleanest and most efficient vehicles possible.

The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Taskforce has been created to expand London’s growing network of public charge points and to make sure they are well used, in the right locations and future-proofed for tomorrow’s technology. Over the past year, 1,000 new charge points have been installed in town centres, petrol stations and retrofitted into street lighting columns.

But the electrification of London’s roads does not stop there. 1,600 of the city’s hardworking taxis are now electric, and Transport for London officially runs Europe’s largest electric bus fleet. A new fund has also been created to help small businesses and low-income Londoners trade in their older, more polluting vehicles for cleaner alternatives.

On the road to a cleaner, healthier London

Although there’s still plenty of work to do, London is among the first cities globally to publish a plan to deliver the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement and create a cleaner, greener and healthier city. The ULEZ and the drive to adopt electric vehicles across all parts of the transport system is central to this aim.

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