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Moving Toward an LEZ in the Edinburgh

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The next stage in the plan to introduce a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Edinburgh will be actioned, if approved by committee this week.

A finalised scheme was brought to October’s Transport and Environment Committee, when it was agreed that further analysis would be carried out on the LEZ’s role in reducing greenhouse gases, in particular carbon emissions, before final approval.

On Thursday (27 January) committee members will consider a report outlining analysis by SEPA via the National Modelling Framework. This notes that, while the LEZ will take significant steps towards tackling poor air quality caused by harmful NO2 and PM emissions, there are limits to how much the fossil-fuelled vehicles that are allowed within the zone will reduce carbon emissions.

Instead, the wider objectives of the LEZ scheme will help facilitate the Council’s actions toward achieving a net zero city. These include decarbonising transport and encouraging a shift away from private car use towards more sustainable choices of public transport or walking, wheeling and cycling.

It is recommended to proceed with the scheme with no changes to the boundary or grace period, meaning an LEZ would be introduced in the city centre this spring, with enforcement to begin in 2024.

A separate Air Quality Annual Progress report to committee shows a continued decline in air pollution across the city. As a result, one of Edinburgh’s five Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) declared for breaches of national NO2 objectives – Inverleith Row – is set to be revoked, after three consecutive years of compliance, which is a sign of progress. There are, however, still areas of concern, especially the Central AQMA, though modelling predicts that actions such as introducing an LEZ will have a positive impact.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said:

“The LEZ put forward for approval in October followed several years of planning, modelling and analysis, in line with national frameworks, as well as consideration of feedback received through a major public consultation.

Additional work carried out since then to assess the scheme’s impact on carbon emissions, as well as the proposed boundaries and grace period, demonstrates that these proposals are appropriate for the city.

The LEZ, alongside a range of ambitious projects to improve air quality, will encourage cleaner transport and support active travel, and is key to achieving cleaner air for everyone.”

Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said:

“It’s really encouraging to see a consistent fall in harmful air pollutants across the city, so much so that we’ll soon be able to revoke the Inverleith Row AQMA.

Of course, there’s still work to be done and we’re confident that the LEZ, paired with companies committing to cleaner fleets, improved signalling and modal shift away from private car journeys, amongst other measures, will see the picture improve even further.”

Edinburgh’s city centre LEZ would apply to all motor vehicles, except motorcycles and mopeds, and with a two-year grace period. An evidence-led approach was taken when developing the LEZ, adhering to the National Low Emission Framework and based on detailed traffic and air quality modelling and data. October’s proposals followed a major, 12-week consultation with the public.

The city centre boundary was selected based on various factors, including the expected limited impact of a larger zone and predictions that an alternative city centre zone would have longer lasting negative impacts on air quality at its boundary.

Once the LEZ is in place, vehicles must meet a minimum emissions standard to enter the zone freely, and those that don’t will be considered non-compliant and subject to penalties. Penalty charges are set nationally at £60 for non-compliant vehicles (though halved if paid within 30 days), with the penalty rate roughly doubling for subsequent contraventions to a maximum level depending on the vehicle.

Read the full reports, Low Emission Zone – Carbon Impact and 2021 Air Quality Annual Progress Report, on the Council website. Watch the discussions live via webcast from 10am on Thursday, 27 January.

You can also find out more about the LEZ on our dedicated web pages.

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