It’s Wednesday, November 30, and London is discouraging the use of highly polluting vehicles.

Map showing the planned expansion of London's Ultra Low Emission Zone

As part of an ongoing effort to clean up London’s automobile-related air pollution, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced last week that the city’s “Ultra Low Emission Zone,” known as the ULEZ, will grow to cover all 600 square miles of the Greater London area.

At the moment, drivers of the most highly polluting vehicles have to pay a daily fee of £12.50 (about $15) to enter the ULEZ. And starting on August 29 of next year, that area will be expanded to all of London’s boroughs, stretching as far as 15 miles past downtown in every direction. The move marks the zone’s second expansion since it was introduced in 2019, and city officials say it’s helped halve air pollution in central London.

Most gasoline-powered cars, vans, and motorcycles manufactured since 2006 or 2007 are exempt from the ULEZ fee. Still, the plan has faced “staggering” opposition — not only from conservative policymakers and businesses, but from 70 percent of people who live within the ULEZ’s outer London boundaries. Some said the driving fees would overburden working families, while others argued that public transit is not a widely available alternative in the zone’s outer reaches.

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To allay some of these concerns, the mayor’s office announced a $132 million “scrappage scheme” to help Londoners trade in their highly polluting vehicles for transit passes or vehicles that comply with the ULEZ’s pollution standards. Khan also said disabled drivers will be exempted from fees to enter the zone until 2027.

Outside of London, several other U.K. cities — including Bath and Birmingham — have beaten back opposition to implement their own clean-air zones, and they report promising reductions in air pollution. Environmental and public health advocates say the zones are necessary to protect people from pollution-related health problems including asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

“Public health comes before political expediency,” Khan said in a video posted to Twitter, “and I won’t stand idly by while Londoners die and children are choked by poisonous fumes.”

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