Low Emission Zones in Scotland: How to make them fair

By Craig Morton, CXC Research Fellow Low Carbon Transport, University of Leeds

Scotland’s transport system is an integral part of economic and social activity, crucial in the pursuit of business opportunities and underpinning our lifestyles. However, the extensive benefits the system delivers to Scotland come at a price. Fossil fuel powered vehicles generate large quantities of greenhouse gases, leading to climate change, as well as local pollutants, reducing air quality and damaging the health of citizens. One of the biggest challenges facing government policy over the next decade is developing a strategy through which to maintain the positive aspects of the system whilst reducing the antagonisms which it generates.

In an effort to shift the system onto a sustainable pathway, the Scottish Government are in the process of designing a series of policies which could significantly alter how the transport system operates. An example is the potential introduction of Low Emission Zones in some of Scotland’s cities, which will restrict the access of highly polluting cars, buses and lorries, in order to improve air quality and encourage the use of cleaner vehicles. Will the impact of this considerable change in transport policy be evenly distributed? What parts of society are likely to gain or lose out from the policy, and will it lead to a fairer system?

At present, work is underway within ClimateXChange to evaluate the social equality implications of the potential introduction of Low Emission Zones. This work brings together a host of different pieces of information about the cars citizens own, how these cars are used and the alternative forms of transport that are available. These pieces of information are used to develop an assessment of how vulnerable certain areas are to the introduction of Low Emission Zones, with this level of vulnerability then being linked to the types of individuals that live within the area. As such it produces a detailed perspective on how the costs of Low Emission Zones are spread across society.

Through this evaluation, ClimateXChange will provide advice to the Scottish Government regarding the areas that could lose out due to the introduction of Low Emission Zones, and what measures could be put in place to circumvent any negative consequences of the policy. These measures could involve expanding public transport, introducing new Car Club locations and installing additional active travel corridors in order to ensure that citizens are not wholly reliant on the use of private cars to access the Low Emission Zones.

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