Environmental campaigners expressed renewed hope for City of Edinburgh Council’s Low Emission Zone plans, following a last-minute decision to broaden the scope of the public consultation. The Council’s Transport and Environment Committee approved a motion from a Scottish Green Party Councillor for the consultation to consider if cars should be included in the city-wide zone. The consultation launches on May 20th.

Key aspects of the current LEZ plans:

  • A small low emission zone covering the Old Town will restrict buses and HGVs from the end of 2021, with the oldest, most-polluting cars restricted from the end of 2024.
  • A larger zone, covering the whole city, will be in place from the end of 2023 and does not apply to cars. It will only apply to buses, coaches, and HGVs.
  • There will be no restrictions on cars in Edinburgh in the next 5 years, despite their huge role in causing air pollution.
  • Edinburgh currently has 6 official pollution zones, where air quality fails to meet legal standards, but only one of these is included in the central LEZ.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson, who made an official deputation to the Committee meeting, commented:

“People of Edinburgh will be asked to consider what sort of city they want to live in. Do they want neighbourhoods smogged by the oldest, diesel cars across the whole city, but with higher standards for tourists and shoppers in an Old Town free of pollution? Or do they want a city where everyone has the chance to breathe clean air?

“The inclusion of these important questions in the Low Emission Zone consultation is an opportunity for the people to have their say. Cars must be included in the city-wide zone. That this hasn’t been considered until now is a huge oversight from the Council. Toxic and illegal levels of air pollution in Edinburgh cause 200 early deaths each year. A number of streets across the city are breaking legal limits that should have been met years ago. We need to take every action we can.

“Residents in persistent pollution hotspots such as St John’s Road are rightly annoyed that the Council plans will do nothing to address toxic fumes from cars where they live. We hope they will get involved in the Council’s consultation and ask the question as to why public health is protected from car pollution in the Old Town but not in their neighbourhood. Many other residents in Edinburgh will be surprised that the Council is creating a zone to tackle air pollution but that it doesn’t actually apply to cars.

“As part of our response to the climate emergency, we must take action to reduce the climate emissions from transport. Allowing Edinburgh to continue to be choked by older, diesel cars, indefinitely, with a small protected area in the Old Town, does not match the apparent ambition of the Council or the scale of the climate emergency we face.”

“Edinburgh Council should also try to ensure that LEZ plans challenge the domination of our public spaces by cars, with their damaging effects in both pollution and safety. By giving more people the freedom to walk and cycle safely, we can cut air pollution, reduce our climate emissions and make Edinburgh a better place to live and work.”


Notes to Editors

1. City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport & Environment Committee met on Thursday 16th May. Papers can be found here.

2. Edinburgh Council have committed to go carbon neutral by 2030. https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/here-s-how-edinburgh-aims-to-go-carbon-neutral-by-2030-1-4927199

3. Edinburgh’s Low Emission Zone ‘won’t make any difference’ to most polluted street https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/edinburgh-s-low-emission-zone-won-t-make-any-difference-to-most-polluted-street-1-4928014

4. 200 premature deaths from fine particle (PM2.5) air pollution in Edinburgh: see Public Health England, “Estimating local mortality burdens associated with particulate air pollution” (2014), Table 3, page 20. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/estimating-local-mortality-burdens-associated-with-particulate-air-pollution

5. Free to use photos of Edinburgh air pollution protests and Scotland’s most polluted streets are available at https://flic.kr/s/aHskrG52pg

6. Earlier this year, Friends of the Earth Scotland identified 4 sites in Edinburgh with illegal pollution levels
Dirtiest streets for Nitrogen Dioxide
The European Ambient Air Quality Directive set a limit for NO2 of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre, so all these sites are breaking the legal limit. The deadline for compliance was 1 January 2010.
Location / NO2 Annual mean (µg/m3)
Edinburgh Queensferry Road / 50.54
Edinburgh Nicolson Street / 49.22
Edinburgh St John’s Road / 46.32
Dirtiest streets for Particulate Matter
The Scottish annual statutory standard for particulate matter (PM10) is 18 micrograms per cubic metre, so two of these sites are breaking the standard. The deadline for this standard to have been met was 31st December 2010.
Location / PM10 Annual mean (µg/m3)
Edinburgh Queensferry Road / 24.15
Edinburgh Salamander St / 20.83

7. Edinburgh has 6 Local Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). An AQMA is required when a pollutant fails to meet air quality standards which are set by the Scottish Government. http://www.scottishairquality.scot/laqm/aqma?id=370

8. City of Edinburgh Council’s own report states that “4.17 There is a risk that a the city centre boundary alone may displace polluting vehicles to other areas of the city and exacerbate existing air quality problems.”
Full Meeting Papers (Part 1) – Transport and Environment Committee – 16.05.19 – Full Meeting Papers – P.195

9. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.