Low Emissions Zone Plans Not Tough Enough to Deal With Public Health Emergency

Hope Street in Glasgow’s city centre remains one of the most polluted streets in Scotland, with the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in the country, and around 300 Glaswegians are killed every year by the effects of breathing the city’s toxic air. Green councillors are worried that plans being considered by Glasgow City Council will not do enough to clean up the dangerously polluted air that residents are forced to breathe.

On 20th March, councillors on the Environment, Sustainability and Carbon Reduction Policy Development Committee will consider an update on plans for a phased introduction of a Low Emission Zone in Glasgow. Green councillors are seeking to ensure that a Low Emission Zone delivers ambitious targets to improve public health, and want it to apply to all polluting vehicles and not just buses.

More detail on the costs and plans to enhance bus services have been awaited since a green light was given to the establishment of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in September 2017 by councillors on the City Administration Committee.

Martha Wardrop, the Green group’s spokesperson for sustainability and councillor for Hillhead, said: “The creation of a LEZ is a chance to tackle the appalling levels of air pollution on the city’s streets, and also to enhance public transport options in the city centre. This is a key Green manifesto idea that Green councillors have been pushing the SNP administration to implement before the end of 2018.

“To tackle toxic air and improve the city’s transport, the city has to rapidly invest in low carbon technologies - including electric buses - and develop the Crossrail project, new protected cycleways, affordable buses across Glasgow and integrated ticketing.

“Sadly, the proposals for the first phase of implementing the Low Emission Zone only cover buses, and only in the city centre.

“This leaves residents in communities along Dumbarton Road, in Hyndland and in the Southside stuck breathing shocking levels of pollution. The area covered by the Low Emission Zone has to remain subject to review with the option to extend to cover the whole city.

“Taxis and private cars also emit harmful particulates, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, but they are not considered as part of the first phase. Plans for the second phase are subject to public consultation over the next 12 months, and details for the next stage of LEZ implementation, covering all vehicles, should be reported back to councillors by the end of March 2019.

“The proposal to bring only some buses up to meet the tougher Euro 6 emission standard by 2020 is not progressive, and will not deliver the rapid change to air quality that Glaswegians need. Currently only around 15% of Glasgow’s buses meet the required standard. We need a commitment to accelerate investment in greener buses, including funding for electric and fuel cell buses, and to upgrade the exhaust systems of a further 800 existing diesel buses to help both improve the air quality in the city and to reduce carbon emissions. The Scottish Government is making over £10m in loans available to help with the purchase of low emission buses, and another £10m to cover the costs of introducing Low Emission Zones - the money is there to clean up Glasgow’s air.”