OPINION - Sadiq Khan: Ulez is a landmark moment for London

Sadiq Khan on Tuesday morning  (Jeremy Selwyn)
Sadiq Khan on Tuesday morning (Jeremy Selwyn)

The expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone represents a landmark moment for our city.

Five million more Londoners will now be able to breathe cleaner air, our children and climate will be healthier, and lives will ultimately be saved.

It is no secret that Ulez has been a contentious issue, but the poison inhaled by Londoners is inflicting untold misery.

Children are growing up with stunted lungs, adults are developing asthma, cancer, heart disease and dementia, and dirty air is responsible for thousands of early deaths in our city.

Air pollution is preventable. It’s not inevitable. It’s the poorest Londoners, least likely to own a car who suffer the worst consequences.

As Mayor, I have used every lever at my disposal to end this injustice. It’s why we now boast the largest zero-emission bus fleet and the most rapid electric vehicle charge points of any European city. More then a third of the country’s charging points are now in London.

However, the evidence shows clean air zones like Ulez are by far the most effective way of tackling air pollution in a city like London.

Ulez has already cut toxic nitrogen dioxide levels by nearly half in central London and a fifth in inner London. In addition to making our air cleaner it has led to a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to that produced by over one million flights from London to New York.

With air pollution exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended guidelines in every outer borough, it is only right to expand the zone and enable all Londoners to breathe cleaner air rather than just those in central and inner London.

Nine in 10 cars seen driving in the zone on an average day are already compliant and won’t pay a penny, but will see the benefits of cleaner air.

Some drivers have raised genuine concerns over the impact of Ulez during the cost-of-living crisis. I have consistently listened to those views and that’s why I introduced the UK’s biggest vehicle scrappage scheme, without any support from Government who have been supporting scrappage schemes around the country.

All Londoners with a non-compliant vehicle are now eligible for financial support and there’s still plenty of money available so I encourage everyone to apply.

Expanding Ulez was a difficult decision to take, but clean air is a right, not a privilege.

As Mayor, my promise to Londoners is that our city will continue to set the bar – championing public health, environmental progress and climate justice.

The preventable premature deaths related to air pollution, catastrophic heatwaves, wildfires and extreme weather events wreaking havoc across the world remind us that the greatest risk of all is to do nothing at all.