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Low Emission Zone compliance in Edinburgh increased by over 60% in 6 years


Recent data has shown that compliance with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) emissions standards in Edinburgh has increased by over 60% in the last six years, with over three quarters of vehicles now being compliant.

However, analysis of data by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) reveals that over half of diesel cars and a third of light goods vehicles, such as transit vans, travelling on the main routes into Edinburgh are currently not compliant with the city’s LEZ requirements.

To gather this information, SEPA used temporary monitoring Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras placed on the main roads leading into the city from the north, south, east, and west. The data is publicly accessible through a tool developed by SEPA, which allows comparison of data from 2016 to 2022.

Edinburgh’s city centre LEZ was officially launched on May 31, 2022, alongside LEZs in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee. The LEZ in Edinburgh aims to improve air quality and protect public health by restricting the most polluting vehicles from the boundary. This is expected to significantly reduce harmful traffic-related emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by up to 50% in the zone and bring further air quality improvements across the wider city.

To support people and businesses in adapting to the changes, a two-year grace period has been put in place, during which no penalty charges will be issued. However, from June 1, 2024, any vehicles that fail to meet the minimum emission standards will be subject to penalties.

Last year we joined cities across Scotland to introduce a city centre LEZ, which will play a central role in lowering harmful emissions in Edinburgh. We all have the right to breathe clean air and it’s our duty to do everything in our power to drive down air pollution and protect public health.

Of course, these kinds of changes take some adjustment, and the two-year grace period is giving people time to prepare and make sure they avoid penalties once enforcement begins. It’s really encouraging that compliance is on the rise across all kinds of vehicles, with the LEZ helping to accelerate this positive transition towards cleaner vehicles. Thanks to all those who have made the  change.

There’s still some way to go though, and I’d urge everyone travelling into Edinburgh to find out more about the LEZ, the support on offer and options for travelling more sustainably – choosing to walk, wheel, cycle or use public transport is the best way to help keep Edinburgh’s air clean.

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener

The development of LEZs across Scotland is built on science led by SEPA’s air quality modelling work. As part of the development of Edinburgh’s LEZ scheme, councillors used bespoke modelling tools to make informed decisions on the most appropriate way to achieve air quality improvements across the city. This latest data shows positive changes are being made, such as the increasing numbers of electric or hybrid vehicles being registered.

Air pollution is one of the most important environmental health risks of our time, so the introduction of LEZs will aim to accelerate air quality improvements in the most polluted areas of our cities. SEPA is proud to play an important part in this collaborative work.

Dr Colin Gillespie, Air Modelling Unit Manager at SEPA

SEPA’s analysis of the data found:

• Overall compliance with emissions standards for all vehicles over the last six years has increased from 48% to 78%.
• Lowest compliance is among diesel cars (50%), light goods vehicles (65%) and taxis (73%).
• The vehicles with highest compliance are buses (97%), petrol cars (95%) and Heavy Goods Vehicles (86%).
• There have been significant improvements across different vehicle types over the last six years – compliance has increased for taxis from 21% to 73%, for buses from 24% to 97%, for LGVs from 7% to 66% and HGVs from 38% to 86%.
• The proportion of new cars registered that are diesel has fallen from almost 50% to 11% over the past 15 years. Around 55% of new cars registered are now petrol and 36% of new cars are electric or hybrid.

LEZ restrictions will apply to motor vehicles, except motorcycles and mopeds. Vehicles must meet the minimum emissions standards to drive into the zone freely, though national exemptions will apply including for blue badge holders and emergency vehicles. Zero emission vehicles (electric) may enter the zone freely.

There’s national grant funding available to help those who are most likely to find it difficult adjusting to the changes. Eligible small businesses, sole traders and households on low incomes within 20 km (12 miles) of the zone can apply for grants from the Energy Saving Trust.

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