A low-emission zone (LEZ) is a defined area where access by some polluting vehicles is restricted or deterred with the aim of improving the air quality.

We support ambitious Low Emission Zones

The Scottish Government has announced that Glasgow will host Scotland’s first LEZ.  Whilst this is great news, we must ensure this, and subsequent Zones, are ambitious, strong and can deliver clean air.

The Government have just finished consulting on their LEZ plans – where they will be, to which vehicles will they apply and how they will be enforced. We’ve responded to say that LEZs must be able to make a real difference in tackling air pollution.

Read our response to the LEZ consultation

Traffic is the key cause of Scotland’s Pollution crisis. In our urban areas, we need to keep the most polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places, which is exactly what LEZs can achieve. LEZs are a major piece in the puzzle of transport policies that the Scottish Government must introduce to safeguard our right to clean air.

Do LEZs exist anywhere else? How do they work?

There are over 200 LEZs across Europe, with over 70 in Germany, but there are many different ways to introduce and implement a LEZ with differing levels of success.

Berlin’s LEZ:

  • introduced in 2008
  • achieved a 58% overall reduction in PM emissions within the first three years
  • applied a Euro 4 emission standard to all diesel vehicles including cars.

Motorists have to display a sticker on their windows showing their vehicle’s Euro standard, and if they do not have a Euro 4 sticker and are discovered in the zone have to pay a fine of €80, which is enforced by wardens.

London’s LEZ:

  • Introduced in 2008 which covers a large area Greater London
  • Currently only applies vehicle restrictions to buses, lorries, and vans.
  • If these vehicles are found within the zone with the wrong emissions standard they must pay a fine of £200 which is enforced by the police using automatic number plate recognition technology which is linked to a database.
  • The London LEZ is due to apply to cars within a small area (the same area as London’s congestion charge) from next year. That area will then widen to cover a larger area which spans all the way to the north circular from 2021.

We are calling for:

  • LEZs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth as soon as possible. These are all cities, which have ongoing illegal levels of pollution and with large populations who are exposed to unsafe toxic air every day.
  • buses, vans, and lorries to be included initially in the zones, with cars included eventually.
  • the emissions standard to be set at Euro 6
  • enforcement to be via automatic number plate recognition technology, so that in the future, a congestion charge would be able to be applied using the same equipment.
  • the area of the zones to encompass all areas with regular breaches of air quality safety standards.
  • the Scottish Government to support buses to upgrade their fleets through funding so that buses are not forced to increase fares or reduce services in order to comply with the zones
  • The Scottish Government to make funding available to councils to introduce the zones

How close are LEZs to being delivered in Scotland?

Since we started campaigning for the delivery of LEZs in 2013, the following milestones have been hit:

  • In 2016 the Scottish Government promised to deliver Scotland’s first LEZ by 2018, working closely with a local authority.
  • Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Perth & Kinross City Councils have all expressed an interest in introducing a LEZ in their most polluted areas.
  • The Scottish Government’s “Cleaner Air for Scotland” Governance Group is tasked with assisting the delivery of Scotland’s first LEZ, however, progress to date has been too slow.
  • Arrangements over where the first zone will be, what legal base the zone will take, and how it will be funded have yet to be disclosed by the Scottish Government.
  • In September 2017 the Scottish Government built upon its promise to have one Low Emission Zone (LEZ) by 2018, and committed to work with local authorities to introduce LEZs in our four biggest cities by 2020 and, where necessary, in all other Pollution Zones by 2023.
  • Through participation on the Scottish Government’s Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group, where Friends of the Earth Scotland represents Scottish Environment Link, we are working to keep pressure on the Scottish Government to deliver on its moral and legal obligations to protect our health through LEZs as soon as possible.

How you can help bring LEZs into fruition

  • If you live in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, or Perth then your Council has expressed a willingness to explore introducing a LEZ in your city.
  • Contact your Councillors to tell them you want a LEZ, and ask them to progress the development of a LEZ. Find out which committees are tasked with taking this on.
  • You might also consider contacting your local media by writing them a letter about why a LEZ is a good idea in your area.

If you want any more advice on how LEZs might work in your area or how you can support their development locally, contact our air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna