Birmingham Clean Air Zone shows that strict rules make a real difference to air quality

Air pollution campaigners are declaring signs of a huge win as new data suggests that pollution is down by 20% in hotspots across Birmingham since the introduction of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

As reported by inews, second city residents are now breathing cleaner air as new figures show an improvement in air quality since the initiative was launched in June.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have fallen significantly inside the CAZ in the last three months, according to data from air quality monitoring stations and pollution levels may now be within legal limits for the first time.

The Birmingham CAZ is the only scheme in the UK, outside of London, where drivers must pay for taking a polluting vehicle within the city centre limits. Drivers of polluting petrol and diesel cars that don’t meet the emissions standards must pay £8 each day they enter the city. HGVs and coaches are charged £50.

Birmingham City Council introduced the scheme to combat poor air quality, which is thought to be responsible for 900 deaths a year in the city.

Before the CAZ, the city centre regularly registered levels of 45-60 micrograms per cubic metre on weekdays, increasing the risk of asthma attacks, irritated airways and respiratory issues. Cities must be below an average of 40 micrograms to be within legal limits. Monitoring sites are now showing the city is under that limit, even during weekday rush hour.

The report does suggest that while the pollution in the city centre is falling, it may have risen on the A4540 ring road around the CAZ. Roadside monitors suggest NO2 levels may have climbed 5% this summer when compared to previous years.

With the Birmingham CAZ being a success so far, questions are now being asked why other cities in the UK haven’t adopted similar schemes quickly enough.

Katie Nield, the clean air lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, told the i that the latest figures show CAZs can “deliver really rapid results for people’s health.” “This begs the question of why other towns and cities like Sheffield and Greater Manchester are taking so long to act protect people’s health from harmful air pollution.

“The UK Government also needs to step up to the plate to push ahead a national network of CAZs, alongside help and support for people and small businesses to move to cleaner forms of transport across the whole country,” she added.

It’s time to restrict polluting garden tools in Clean Air Zones

Clean air zones are clearly an effective way of bringing improved air quality to city centres and we must see more zones introduced, not only in the UK but across the world. However, CAZ initiatives continue to not include polluting garden tools, which continue to harm our air quality.

Tools such as petrol lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws and brush cutters are used frequently by city councils and businesses to maintain green spaces. In fact, 89% of UK councils are using petrol powered tools. From our own research, Challenge 2025 discovered that 11x more carbon monoxide is emitted by a petrol leaf blower than a Ford Fiesta and 4x more nitrous oxide is emitted by a petrol brush cutter than a Ford Fiesta.

With the staggering figures listed above, there can be no excuse for not including dangerous polluting tools alongside the vehicles that don’t meet the limits. Challenge 2025 was launched by EGO to show that there are safer alternatives in the shape of battery-powered garden tools, and by switching to them we can make our air greener.

Discover more about our work and take up the challenge today by downloading The Report here:

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