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Breathing life into London – CBI Economics 2021

New research from CBI Economics, commissioned by Clean Air Fund demonstrates how reducing nitrogen dioxide through the proposed Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) extension in London can boost the local economy and save lives.

Extended ULEZ to inject £48m to London’s economy and prevent at least 10% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions new research shows

Analysis by CBI Economics, commissioned by the Clean Air Fund, shows:

  • City to see at least £48m annual benefit from reduction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels thanks to extension of Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) 
  • Estimated 28% (10 µg/m3) reduction in NO2 in London’s extended ULEZ could prevent at least 600 deaths each year, and save 1,300 days spent in hospital.[1] This represents around 1% of all London’s deaths and 10% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions.[2]

Additionally:

  • Analysis by Ricardo shows the maximum nitrogen dioxide levels exceed legal limit by up to 95%, driven predominantly by 422 areas
  • Existing ULEZ has achieved a 44% reduction in NO2 levels within its boundaries[3], but London still has the worst figures in the UK.

The proposed extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London could bring the city £48m and save hundreds of lives every year by reducing dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), new CBI Economics research commissioned by the Clean Air Fund shows. A multitude of evidence shows that air pollution – and nitrogen dioxide specifically – leads to many respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Reducing NO2 levels can improve people’s health and save lives.

The world’s first Clean Air Zone (CAZ), London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), was created to reduce NO2 concentrations by restricting access for the most polluting vehicles, in response to the UK government’s air quality plan. This requires local authorities to hit legally binding targets for reducing NO2, following a successful legal challenge against the government’s failure to tackle the problem in 2017.

The ULEZ has achieved a 44% reduction in NO2 levels within its boundaries[4]. However, analysis by Ricardo reveals nitrogen dioxide levels currently exceed legal limits in 422 hotspots, in some cases by as much as 95% – the worst figures in the UK. These latest findings underline the clear economic and public health case for expanding the ULEZ beyond central London up to the North and South Circular Roads,[5]. planned from 25 October 2021.

CBI Economics analysis suggests an additional average reduction in NO2 of 28% (10mgs) would at a minimum, prevent between 300 and 600 deaths each year, and save 1,300 days spent in hospital.[6] This represents around 1% of all London’s deaths and 10% of deaths associated with respiratory conditions per annum.  It is estimated to inject an additional £48m into the city’s economy, by preventing deaths and illness from NO2 exposure.[7]

Jane Burston, Executive Director at the Clean Air Fund said:

“London has led the world on reducing vehicle emissions recently, but Londoners still breathe the dirtiest air in the UK – especially those in the poorest areas. These numbers show the ULEZ is working, but the job is far from done. Its expansion will target some of the worst affected areas, and make Londoners richer and healthier as a result. The city is at the forefront of our national and global effort to build back better on air quality.”

The researchers make clear that the numbers they have given are the minimum health and economic benefits these measures would bring, because their analysis did not measure a number of factors. For example, bringing down vehicle emissions would likely also reduce other pollutants, improving air quality will reduce health conditions in which air pollution is a secondary factor, and more people will breathe cleaner air than just those living in the ULEZ zone.

Eddie Curzon, CBI London Director, said:

“Cleaner air within our major cities is an aspiration not only central to improving public health, but also a business-critical issue for firms in London.

 

“Congested city streets are all too common a sight, slowing business operations and ultimately putting people’s health at risk. The loss of working hours in London alone runs into the hundreds of thousands.

 

“Building Back Better must have a green thread running through the very middle of it. That means working together towards reaching our net zero targets and making the most of the economic benefits from lowering air pollution in urban areas.”

The UK government sets legally binding limits for NO2 concentrations over a given year and per hour.[8] While London’s average NO2 concentrations comply with this limit, the most polluted areas in London exceed it by up to 95% (38 µg/m3).[9]

Public Health England estimates that between 2017 and 2025 the total cost to the NHS and social care system due to NO2 alone will reach £61 million.[10]

The research follows a nationwide report from the same organisations in September 2020, which found that the UK economy could benefit to the tune of £1.6 billion each year if it were to achieve the guidelines set by the WHO for ‘safe’ air quality.

 

[1] This change is based on an estimate of the 2019 annual average NO2 level for London of 36 µg/m3, estimated by Ricardo. A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document. The number of deaths and hospitalisations will not stay the same as the years go on because of increasing changes in population size and age structure as the deaths prevented accumulate over time. However, given this is a static analysis, the population and employment levels are assumed constant.

[2] This is based on the upper end estimate of 21 deaths prevented, calculated using deaths data from the ONS.

[3] Greater London Authority (2020) central London Ultra low Emission Zone: Ten Month Report

[4] Greater London Authority (2020) central London Ultra low Emission Zone: Ten Month Report

[5] Transport for London (2021) ULEZ expansion

[6] A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document.

[7] A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the accompanying methodology document.

[8] Statutory limit values are legally binding and must not be exceeded. In the case of NO2 this is 40 µg/m3 for the annual mean and 200 µg/m3 for the 1-hour mean. In order for the UK to comply with the limit value, all local areas across the UK must be in compliance.

[9] This is based on the maximum average concentration of 78mgs provided by Ricardo

[10] PHE (2018) Estimation of costs to the NHS and social care due to the health impacts of air pollution