The measures come as a response to the high levels of NO2 in the cityâ€™s center
The city of Oxford, UK has dangerously high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide. In fact, the NO2 level in a specific location in the city center had been measured 200% above the legal limit in 2011, a number that dropped to 152.5% in 2015. Even so, these levels remain alarmingly high, so earlier this month the cityâ€™s Council proposed the Zero Emission Zone (Oxford already has a Low Emission Zone, put in place in 2014). The Council aims to see the NO2 levels drop below the legal limit and eventually to just 40% of the limit in 2035. The proposals consider a ban of all petrol and diesel vehicles from the city center, an initiative that will run in phases, with the first restrictions coming into place in 2020. Besides, the Government has unveiled its plans to eventually end the sale of all conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
The problem and its solution
Due to the cityâ€™s urban planning, with the tightly-packed historical buildings and narrow streets, traffic often gets clogged up and vehicle emissions are heavily concentrated. As a result, Oxford is one of 11 British cities that have toxic NO2 and PM10 particles in the air above the safety limit, which contributes to diseases including cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease and even to around 40,000 deaths in the UK every year. "Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford's residents," says John Tanner, a member of the Oxford City Council. "A step change is urgently needed; the Zero Emission Zone is that step change. All of us who drive or use petrol or diesel vehicles through Oxford are contributing to the city's toxic air. Everyone needs to do their bit â€“ from national government and local authorities, to businesses and residents â€“ to end this public health emergency."
The first restrictions will concern petrol and diesel taxis, cars, light commercial vehicles, and buses, with fuel-burning heavy goods vehicles the last to go, so that by 2035, only zero-emission vehicles will be allowed into the city center. A six-week public consultation process on the City Councilâ€™s proposal is undergoing between Monday 16 October and Sunday 26 November 2017, in order for the residents to express their thoughts and concerns about the new-coming law and for the authorities to work on it in order to minimize its impact on businesses and locals. "We want to hear from everyone who uses the city centre â€“ including businesses, bus and taxi firms and local residents so that we get the fullest possible picture. Pragmatism will be an important part of anything we plan but we have set the ambition and now we would like to hear people's views on our proposals.", says Councillor Yvonne Constance.
An example to imitate
In London, an ultra-low emission zone has also been proposed, which will come into effect from September 2020, when you'll need to drive a zero-emission vehicle or pay a toll to get into parts of the cityâ€™s center. Paris plans to ban all diesel and petrol vehicles from the city center by 2030, Scotland by 2032, while Sweden, India, Munich and Germany in general have similar plans as well. Even China, the worldâ€™s biggest vehicle market, is considering a ban on the production and sale of fossil fuel cars in a major boost to the production of electric vehicles in order to fight air pollution.
Source: Science alert