EU legal limits

Today the London’s Mayor is due to launch his low-emission zone for London.  It is an attempt to bring down the seriously high levels of air pollution in London – the highest NO2 levels of any capital city in Europe, way above the EU legal limits.  

Last month the EU took the first step towards taking legal action against the UK.  It follows the announcement of the European Commission’s Clean Air Policy Package on 18 December which required member states to meet current EU legal limits by 2020 and to achieve further reductions by 2030.

Look at any map and it becomes clear that two of the biggest problem areas are Central London and Heathrow.  The problem at Heathrow arises not just from the aircraft but also from the traffic on the M4 and the M25.

The impressively knowledgeable Simon Birkett, who heads up Clean Air for London, estimates that, for the Heathrow area to meet the EU legal limits by 2020, only 10% of the traffic on the M4 and M25 could be diesel.  And he says that, if a 3rd runway was in place by 2026 (the planned date for its opening if it is ever built), there would need to be a virtual ban on diesel cars and lorries on the two motorways to meet the legal limits.

This is a very big ask.  Another huge barrier to building a new runway at Heathrow.  Of the other UK airports, only London City risks breaking the EU rules.

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