in the United Kingdom, the extension of the “low emissions” zone in Greater London contested

Demonstrators during a rally to protest against the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, at Marble Arch in central London on June 25, 2023.

About fifty demonstrators, many middle-aged men, yellow vests on their backs and banners in their hands, gathered on Tuesday, July 4, outside the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, in the heart from London. All of them are staunch opponents of the plan of the British capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to extend the low emission zone (ULEZ, for Ultra Low Emission Zone), inaugurated in the center of the metropolis in 2019, to the whole of Greater London, i.e. to its 32 boroughs (boroughs) from August 29, 2023.

A legal action was launched in early 2023 by five counsel councils of the boroughs concerned by the extension (all with a conservative majority) to block Labor Sadiq Khan’s plan. These local councils contest the decision-making process (the mayor gave the green light despite a public consultation with rather reserved conclusions). They also denounce a system of compensation for motorists deemed too ungenerous. The judges could make their decision as early as this Wednesday, July 5, but more likely during the summer. This is a crucial test for Sadiq Khan, who hopes to be re-elected for a third term in 2024.

It was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, mayor of London between 2008 and 2016, who had the idea of ​​establishing a low-emissions zone in London in 2015. But it was his successor who put the project in progress, first in central London, then in 2021 up to the North Circular and the South Circular, two ring roads, north and south of the capital. Vehicles – cars, vans or two-wheelers – that do not meet the low-emission criteria are subject to a daily tax of 12.5 pounds (14.6 euros) when driving in the ULEZ zone.

One in six non-compliant vehicles

Exempted vehicles must meet the Euro 4 nitrogen oxide emissions standard when they are petrol (i.e. models after 2006) or the Euro 6 standard for diesel (models after 2016). Hybrid cars are subject to the same emissions standards. There are exemptions for taxis, delivery trucks or vehicles for the disabled. From August 29, if the extension of ULEZ is not blocked by justice, 5 million additional Londoners will have to comply.

According to TfL, the London transport management company, one in six vehicles are not compliant in Greater London. In a statement from July 2022, Sadiq Khan touted the success of ULEZ and estimated that nitrogen dioxide concentrations in central London had fallen by 44%.

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