Schemes to cut air pollution in cities not only save lives, but show how environmental regulation can be done
Estimates of the number of cars, and therefore drivers, affected by the introduction of new emissions rules in London next month vary. Of the capital’s 2.6m registered vehicles, which belong to around half of all households, it is thought that around one in five do not meet the new test. But given that car ownership is higher in the outer boroughs than in the affected area, some drivers of more polluting cars will neither be forced to pay the £12.50 daily charge nor change their vehicles.
Within the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) it is a different story. Most petrol cars registered after 2005 meet the tougher standard; most diesel ones registered before 2015 don’t. Owners of such vehicles have some cause to feel aggrieved. Driving is not inherently antisocial and has been powerfully incentivised for decades, with cheating manufacturers to blame for a false consensus that developed around diesel’s supposedly greener credentials. For families or other groups, driving is too often the cheapest and quickest way to travel – due in part to excessive rail and other transport costs. For some people, in some circumstances, there is no other way to get around.