London may have the world’s most stringent rules against vehicle emissions by 2019, according to a proposal from Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Khan is seeking to create an “ultra low emission zone” in London that will cover the same area as the current congestion charge. It will impose a daily fee on polluting vehicles beginning on April 8, 2019, according to a statement. Cars, vans and motorcycles that don’t meet standards will have to pay 12.50 pounds ($15.58), while buses, coaches and trucks will be charged 100 pounds.
“We’ve got to address the issue of polluting vehicles contributing to the poor air quality in London,” Khan in an interview on Tuesday. London’s pollution crackdown is “the boldest and most ambitious plan the world’s ever seen,” he said.
The U.K. capital’s air was worse than Beijing’s for several days in January and it broke the European Union’s annual limits on airborne pollutants only five days into 2017. About 9,000 London’s die prematurely every year from conditions affected by pollution, according to estimates from the mayor’s office.
Diesel vehicles are the main cause of the pollution. Drivers were encouraged to switch to the fuel in the 1990s because it emits less carbon dioxide than gasoline. However, other pollutants as much as ten times more toxic continue to be emitted, according to Stephen Holgate, medical research professor at the University of Southampton and special adviser on air quality at the Royal College of Physicians.
Khan’s proposal builds on the 10-pound fee, or T-charge, that was announced in February. It will apply between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays, starting in October. High-emission vehicles will have to pay both the T-charge and the ultra-low emissions zone fee if they enter the city during peak hours.
Revenues raised will be channeled to projects that improve London’s air quality, Khan said. The mayor is also seeking to expand the size of the area to nearly all of Greater London. This may apply to buses, coaches and trucks by 2020 and for passengers vehicles by the following year.
Transport for London is expected to stop buying pure-diesel buses from 2018 onward under this program and only procure electric, hydrogen or hybrid versions, according to the statement. New taxis will have to be zero-emissions capable starting next year as well.
The mayor estimates that implementing the ultra-low emissions zone may reduce by half London’s levels of nitrogen oxide, a pollutant emitted from engines that can lead to respiratory problems.