Main issues:

  • Cities that ban polluting vehicles improve the health of citizens, according to a new study in The Lancet.
  • London’s low emission zone has already cut nitrogen dioxide emissions in the inner city by a fifth, benefiting 4 million residents, according to the mayor.
  • C40, a global alliance of city leaders, has launched a $30 million initiative to raise awareness of air pollution.

Location: 320 low emission zones across Europe, with the study conducted by a team from Imperial College, London

Main facts/points + key stats & data:  

Low emission zones (LEZs) can have a positive impact on air pollution and public health, as emphasised by a recent study published in The Lancet analysing available health studies conducted in the more than 320 low emission zones across Europe​​​​​​​.

  1. Global Air Pollution Problem: Air pollution is a significant global health concern, with 99% of the world's population exposed to air pollution levels exceeding safe limits, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

  2. Health Impact of Air Pollution: Air pollution is associated with 7 million premature deaths annually, resulting from various health issues, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory infections, and respiratory tract cancers.

  3. Effectiveness of Low Emission Zones (LEZs): LEZs, which discourage highly polluting vehicles from entering urban areas through charging mechanisms, have been shown to produce measurable health benefits.

  4. Study by Imperial College, London: Researchers from Imperial College, London, analyzed health studies from over 320 low emission zones across Europe. They found a reduction in the prevalence of health conditions linked to air pollution in these areas.

  5. Positive Health Outcomes: The health benefits of LEZs included a decrease in heart and circulatory diseases, fewer heart attacks and strokes, and improved blood pressure, particularly among older individuals.

  6. Support for LEZs: None of the surveyed areas showed a deterioration in public health due to the implementation of LEZs, according to the study.

  7. London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ): London Mayor Sadiq Khan is extending the ULEZ to cover the entire London urban area from August 2023, with the aim of further improving air quality.

  8. C40's Breathe Cities Initiative: C40, a global alliance of city leaders, launched the Breathe Cities initiative, with a $30 million fund to help cities combat air pollution. London's ULEZ is cited as a successful example.

  9. Global Urbanization and Air Pollution: Over half of the global population currently lives in cities, a number projected to double by 2050. Many cities face air pollution levels significantly exceeding WHO safety standards.

  10. Diesel Car Emissions: A study revealed that older diesel cars emit up to 10 times the permitted level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) when driven in urban areas, prompting calls for stricter emissions standards.

  11. World Economic Forum's Alliance for Clean Air: This corporate movement promotes clean air and encourages members to set targets to reduce air pollutants while championing change and innovation.

In summary, air pollution is a serious global health issue, but measures like low emission zones have been shown to improve public health by reducing pollution-related health problems. The text emphasizes the importance of such initiatives in rapidly urbanizing cities to combat air pollution.

Original link / source / date of updates:

World Economic Forum, 08 August 2023