Low Emission Zone compliance rates rise as countdown to enforcement continues

New data shows that compliance with Edinburgh’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) emissions standards increased by more than 60% over the last six years. Over three quarters of all vehicles are now compliant.

However, more than half of diesel cars and a third of light goods vehicles (such as transit vans) travelling on the main routes into Edinburgh don’t currently comply with the requirements of the city’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ), according to the data analysed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

SEPA gathered information from temporary monitoring Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras placed on main roads leading into the city from the north, south, east and west. The data can be viewed on a publicly accessible tool, developed by SEPA, which compares data from 2016 to 2022.

A city centre LEZ was formally introduced in Edinburgh on 31 May 2022, along with LEZs in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. To help improve air quality and protect public health, Edinburgh’s LEZ will restrict the most polluting vehicles from the boundary, which will significantly reduce harmful traffic-related emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by up to 50% in the zone*. Further air quality improvements are expected across the wider city.

A two-year grace period is in place and no penalty charges will be issued during this time to help people and businesses adjust. From 1 June 2024, any vehicles that don’t meet the minimum emission standards will be subject to penalties.

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener, said:

Last year we joined cities across Scotland to introduce a city centre LEZ, which will play a central role in lowering harmful emissions in Edinburgh. We all have the right to breathe clean air and it’s our duty to do everything in our power to drive down air pollution and protect public health.

Of course, these kinds of changes take some adjustment, and the two-year grace period is giving people time to prepare and make sure they avoid penalties once enforcement begins. It’s really encouraging that compliance is on the rise across all kinds of vehicles, with the LEZ helping to accelerate this positive transition towards cleaner vehicles. Thanks to all those who have made the  change.

There’s still some way to go though, and I’d urge everyone travelling into Edinburgh to find out more about the LEZ, the support on offer and options for travelling more sustainably – choosing to walk, wheel, cycle or use public transport is the best way to help keep Edinburgh’s air clean.

Dr Colin Gillespie, Air Modelling Unit Manager at SEPA, said:

The development of LEZs across Scotland is built on science led by SEPA’s air quality modelling work. As part of the development of Edinburgh’s LEZ scheme, councillors used bespoke modelling tools to make informed decisions on the most appropriate way to achieve air quality improvements across the city. This latest data shows positive changes are being made, such as the increasing numbers of electric or hybrid vehicles being registered.

Air pollution is one of the most important environmental health risks of our time, so the introduction of LEZs will aim to accelerate air quality improvements in the most polluted areas of our cities. SEPA is proud to play an important part in this collaborative work.

SEPA’s analysis of the data found:

  • Overall compliance with emissions standards for all vehicles over the last six years has increased from 48% to 78%.
  • Lowest compliance is among diesel cars (50%), light goods vehicles (65%) and taxis (73%).
  • The vehicles with highest compliance are buses (97%), petrol cars (95%) and Heavy Goods Vehicles (86%).
  • There have been significant improvements across different vehicle types over the last six years – compliance has increased for taxis from 21% to 73%, for buses from 24% to 97%, for LGVs from 7% to 66% and HGVs from 38% to 86%.
  • The proportion of new cars registered that are diesel has fallen from almost 50% to 11% over the past 15 years. Around 55% of new cars registered are now petrol and 36% of new cars are electric or hybrid.

LEZ restrictions will apply to motor vehicles, except motorcycles and mopeds. Vehicles must meet the minimum emissions standards to drive into the zone freely, though national exemptions will apply including for blue badge holders and emergency vehicles. Zero emission vehicles (electric) may enter the zone freely.

There’s national grant funding available to help those who are most likely to find it difficult adjusting to the changes. Eligible small businesses, sole traders and households on low incomes within 20 km (12 miles) of the zone can apply for grants from the Energy Saving Trust.

Find out more about the LEZ, and SEPA’s role in its development, on our website.

*Emissions are projected to fall compared to 2019 levels

Published: March 1st 2023