Clean air zones to provide economic boost while slashing emissions

15th April 2021

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Pete Snow

The UK's clean air zones (CAZs) will slash nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution by almost a fifth and inject millions of pounds into local economies, analysis by CBI Economics suggests.

In a report published today, the researchers forecast CAZs to deliver an average NO2 reduction of 18% across eight cities while preventing at least 1% of deaths in local populations.

By restricting the most polluting vehicles from entering the worst affected areas, the report also claims that millions of pounds will be saved through reducing illness and days off work due to pollution exposure.

This comes after separate research by CBI Economics last year revealed that the UK could enjoy an annual economic boost of £1.6bn if it were to achieve World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for ‘safe’ air quality.

The CBI's chief economist, Rain Newton-Smith, and Jane Burston, executive director at the Clean Air Fund, which commissioned the latest research, wrote in a blog today: “The UK’s CAZ programme would deliver significant health and economic benefits for people in some of the country’s major cities.

“The report’s findings are really important incentives for the cities themselves – and show 250 schemes with similar goals around the world what is possible.”

Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, Portsmouth and Sheffield are the eight cities covered by today's analysis.

It suggests that London could see an additional £48m yearly benefit from the planned extension of its ultra-low emission zone in October this year, on top of preventing up to 614 deaths annually.

Meanwhile, Manchester’s extended CAZ – which will cover the entire greater Manchester region – will inject at least £7.1m into the city’s economy, compared to the £1.5m projected gain from Liverpool’s CAZ, and £1m in Bristol.

However, the research also suggests that delays to CAZ schemes in northern cities will leave their citizens and economies behind and increase the economic divide between the country’s north and south.

“The CAZ programme is one of the clearest ways for local and national government in the UK to work in step to build back better on air quality, backed by a clear public mandate,” Newton-Smith and Burston said.

“This research shows delivering them quickly will be good for the health – and the wallets – of people in our major cities – and likewise that delays will be bad.”

Image credit: iStock

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