Cleaning up our Act – Explaining Some Key Terms – 2021 Update

31 March, 2021

In recent articles, we have mentioned some interesting topics, including the introduction of Clean Air Zones, Low Emission Zones, and the Petrol and Diesel Ban. In this article, we will go beyond simple mentions and try to explore these three topics, giving you an assessment of the impact they might have on businesses in terms of transport, distribution, and logistic planning.

Clear Air Zones

As part of the UK’s Clean Air Strategy 2019, air pollution is going to be tackled, with a strong focus being on highly urbanised city centres. Toxic PM2.5 levels are unsafe and must be addressed, so I’m quite pleased to see that certain cities are introducing these ‘Clean Air Zones’.

So far, the first city to formalise their plans is Newcastle, who will introduce the CAZ in January 2021 . Bristol* has also confirmed they will introduce a CAZ in March 2021.

What does that mean?

The CAZ means nothing for private car owners, who will experience no immediate changes (but could experience a change in the future). The policy change will mean £50 charges for HGVs, buses, and coaches, as well as £12.50 charges for taxis and vans, who enter the CAZ (one charge per day for entry). However, this fee is only applicable to older vehicles that fail to meet emissions standards.

Who is exempt?

Modern petrol vans and taxis that meet Euro 4 standards, as well as Euro 6 diesel vehicles. Buses, coaches, and HGVs that meet Euro 6 standards will avoid the toll.

The fees are expected to apply to:

  • HGVs, buses, and coaches registered before 2015
  • Petrol vans registered pre-January 2006
  • Diesel vans registered pre-September 2016
  • Petrol taxis registered pre-2006
  • Diesel taxis registered pre-September 2015

*Bristol is also seeking to forbid private diesel vehicles from entering the CAZ during the hours of 7am to 3pm.

Did you know? This strategy focuses on UN SDG 3 as well as 7, 8, 9, and 11.

Low Emission Zones

A Low Emission Zone is a geographically defined area where the most polluting vehicles in the fleet are restricted or discouraged from using. The aim is to improve air quality by setting an emissions based standard for the vehicles within the area.

Four Low Emission Zones have been successfully introduced in the UK so far. One is the large and well-known London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), the others are known as LEZs and can be found in Oxford, Norwich, and Brighton. In London, diesel vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, such as buses, coaches, large vans, and minibuses, are restricted. In the Norwich, Oxford, and Brighton LEZs, the restriction applies only to buses.

These schemes are being seen as a good way to minimise pollution in busy urbanised areas, and have popped up all over Europe (see here). It will be interesting to see if 2021 and beyond sees the introduction of further LEZs.

Good Health and Wellbeing

This section is new in our 2021 ‘Cleaning up our act’ article, as since we put together the original piece about clean air, emissions, and pollution, something drastic happened. A virus that travels in the air and on surfaces, and that jumps through species to get to humans essentially took over 2020 and put the planet in a state of emergency. We’ve been playing the ‘we are dangerously close to nature’ trumpet for years and we are sad to say that we were right on this point.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’, of course, that is absolutely paramount during a viral pandemic, so the term ‘good health and wellbeing’ doesn’t mean what it used to. Right now, it means wearing masks, being strict on handwashing, and practicing good distance from others in order to protect society. Good health is antisocial in a pandemic. Good wellbeing physically can equate to poor wellbeing emotionally, with mental health problems and suicides at a critical point.

All of this links in with clean air, petrol bans and more, because it was proven that covid and air pollution work in harmony. Scientists at the University of Milan found that long-term and short-term exposure to air pollutants correlates with higher levels of covid in an area, with it being believed that the air pollution could create higher levels of susceptibility of catching covid when it is airborne. 

Petrol and Diesel Ban

Initially set for 2040, the ban to sell new petrol, diesel, or hybrid cars in the UK will be brought forward to 2035. With 15 years being an incredibly long time in a hyper-threatened world, Boris Johnson has again indicated that we would like to bring this forward, with the announcement expected in 2021 that the cut-off date will be brought forward to 2030 or sooner. The electric car revolution is here to stay.

The government wishes to reduce their carbon to net zero by 2050, a target that will certainly be aided by the removal of new petrol and diesel cars from the market, and eventually the roads. The target for the clean-up and possible removal of petrol and diesel cars is set for 2050. 

In Scotland, a rapidly developing charging network is hoping to remove the need for petrol and diesel cars by 2032, a very ambitious and exciting target. Currently around a third of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from road transport, so reducing this will go a long way towards cleaning the air. 


It’s clear to see that progress is being made in various Government initiatives, helping us make sustainable changes as a nation to reach our goals. I really hope that more CAZs, LEZs, and bans such as the petrol and diesel plan will be introduced. Limiting our pollution and pollutive ways is vital in 2021 and beyond, or we may face even worse crises than the coronavirus. 

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