The new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Ultra-low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London significantly improved air quality, according to the latest Institute for Policy Research (IPR) policy brief. The authors believe this will benefit both Londoner’s physical and mental health.
The report shows that the introduction of the LEZ helped to reduce particulate matter (PM10) in Greater London by 13% between 2008-13, compared to before the introduction of this zone (2003-07). The ULEZ has had an even greater impact, reducing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2019 by 18.4% compared to pre-ULEZ levels (2016-18). The report found that the benefits far exceed implementation costs when comparing London to large UK cities without LEZ or ULEZ areas.
The report shows that cleaner air in London led to a 4.5% reduction in long-term health problems and an 8% decrease in respiratory issues like asthma and bronchitis. In addition, the report shows that LEZ led to a reduction in hospital admissions for respiratory conditions like COPD, avoiding 12 respiratory admissions and 2.88 acute respiratory admissions per 10,000 people in Greater London compared to other areas in England. Overall, the report suggests that ULEZ helped improve general health by 3% and reduced anxiety by 6%.
Furthermore, the LEZ and ULEZ areas have helped to generate cost savings of over £963 million in Greater London. This includes savings within the NHS, caused by a 9-prescription reduction per 1000 patients for respiratory infections, resulting in a cost saving of around £74 per 1000 registered patients due to ULEZ.
“With this analysis, our goal was to offer an objective overview of the impact of low-emission zones in the capital and beyond. Our study compares London to cities like Manchester, demonstrating the effectiveness of LEZ and ULEZ in improving air quality, enhancing health, and alleviating the economic burden of ill health,” said Lead author Dr Habtamu Beshir from the University of Bath’s Department of Economics.
The authors acknowledge that it comes with increased costs for older vehicles, which may affect particularly poorer communities. To overcome these challenges, the team highlights the need to provide suitable transport alternatives and subsidies for compliance, especially in areas with poor air quality and pollution. “Our analysis confirms the effectiveness of Low Emission Zones in improving air quality and health — crucial for residents in large cities. It shouldn’t be a choice between health and affording schemes like ULEZ. We must explore innovative policy solutions to make these schemes viable and effective,” concluded Professor Eleanora Fichera.