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Europe's Emerging Consensus on Low-Emissions Zones

Critics of London Mayor Boris Johnson's ambitious air pollution plan may be missing the bigger picture.
relates to Europe's Emerging Consensus on Low-Emissions Zones

This month, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced what could rank as the most ambitious anti-pollution plans any major city has yet seen. By 2020, central London will become an ultra-low emissions zone, Johnson hopes, an area where only zero or low emissions vehicles are permitted during working hours. With gas guzzlers, diesel trucks and London’s current geriatric taxi fleet all banned from central streets, citizens and goods will circulate solely via electric and hybrid vehicles. Six hundred hybrid buses, the first installment of the plan, are due to enter service in 2016, putting London on the path to becoming one of the most proactively green cities in the world.

So proactive are the plans, in fact, that the mayor’s opponents smell a rat, or rather a buck-passing “wish list” as opposed to a real statement of intent. Greens in the London Assembly have noted tartly that London’s publicity stunt-loving Mayor has placed the plan’s delivery date safely beyond his own term. The scheme is nonetheless the highest tidemark yet for a growing Europe-wide wave of plans to slash center city car use. Across the continent, city after city is pushing through new legislation designed to flush non-hybrid vehicles out of town.