Zero Emissions Zone

Oxford city centre is considering becoming the first Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ) in the world. The proposed plan would call for non-electric vehicles to be banned entirely from the Oxford city center by 2035. The scheme would unroll gradually with benchmarks to be met every five years starting in 2020 when the innermost ring of the zone would exclude all cars, buses, and taxis that run on fossil fuels. The gradual expansion of the ZEZ would allow the city to budget by backloading most the cost to the second half of the next 18 years.

Image Credit: Dave_S./Flickr

The aim of the ZEZ, which is still just a proposal, is to cut levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to near-background levels. The Oxford ZEZ is part of the larger plan throughout the country designed to tackle illegal levels of air pollution; many streets in Oxford are past the legal limit set by the EU for Nitrogen Dioxide. The ban would reduce those levels by as much as a 74 percent.

Challenges for the ZEZ

While public response is more positive than not, many are concerned about the costs, especially to small businesses. According to the Oxford Mail, adjusting for the ZEZ would cost city councils, bus operators, haulage companies, and taxi firms approximately £14 million ($18.5 million). Anyone violating the ban with a non-electric vehicle in the ZEZ will probably be fined about £60 ($79) automatically.

It's worth noting that whether people are eager to accept the Oxford ZEZ or not, the national government has already announced that the UK will ban the sale of all fossil fuel cars starting in 2040; the final roll-out of the ZEZ will be only five years before that anyway.

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