In May this year the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs published its policy paper on their Clean Air Zone Framework for England. The move came after the UK government lost a landmark case brought against them last November by environmental group ClientEarth, in which the court ruled the government was doing so little to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions, that they were actually breaking the law (PoliticsHome). KMB Shipping Director Jamie Warren considers the implications of this and the impact on the transportation industry.


The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international climate change treaty linked to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, set binding emission reduction targets (UNFCC). As a result, in 2001, Vehicle Excise Duty on diesel cars was cut to reduce CO2 emissions and encourage the sale of more fuel-efficient diesel cars. With almost 12 million diesel cars on British roads (that’s four out of every ten), these engines produce four times the levels of nitrogen dioxide and 22 times more particulates than petrol engines cars (EA Technology).


The government in July announced that all petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040 (Food Manufacture). The main pollutant of diesel engines, nitrogen dioxide, has been at illegal levels in 90% of the UK’s air quality zones since 2010 (The Guardian).


The paper outlined two categories for Clean Air Zones – Non-charging clean air zones, and Charging Clean air zones, and provides guidelines for Local Authorities on identifying and implementing a Clean Air Zone. These include engaging with the local communities to raise awareness of air quality levels and how to improve them, and monitoring the effectiveness of the zones to ensure they are not simply displacing high emission vehicles to other parts of the city to avoid being charged.


London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in April this year that central London would become the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019, with plans to expand the charge throughout Greater London by 2021. Under the scheme the most polluting vehicles will have to pay a daily fee (12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes, £100 for buses, coaches and HGV’s), in addition to the congestion charge, to drive within the zone (


The FTA have criticised the government policy for being vague and unspecific about the types of vehicles that will be affected. Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s Director of UK Policy, said: “Uncertainty will hurt industry – FTA understands we won’t know where lorries and vans will be restricted until next year, giving only a year for businesses to plan their fleets, leaving many with potentially large bills on top of rising operating costs in a difficult trading environment.” (FTA)

Commenting on London’s ULEZ coming into operation in 2019, Head of Policy for London and the South East Natalie Chapman said, “We need to continue the improvement in London’s air quality, which is happening anyway, but this regulation taking effect in 2019 will severely disadvantage small businesses working in the capital’s centre. the impact will be especially hard for van users, as by 2019 there will only be two and a half years’ worth of compliant vehicles in the fleet – and no second-hand compliant vehicles available for purchase at all.”  (Lloyds Loading List)


In the latest Autumn budget last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed the government is taking further steps to improve the environment and tackle air pollution, with a pledge to fund a new £220 million clean air fund to tackle the most polluted areas in England. The Budget also announced that vehicle excise duty for new diesel cars not meeting new standards will rise by one band in April 2018, with the diesel supplement in company car tax is set to rise by 1% too (BBC).



Recent years have seen a global shift towards tackling pollution levels, with China reacting to dangerously high pollution levels by limiting output capacity in its most industrialised provinces, and the signing of the UN Paris Climate Change Agreement. The introduction of clean air zones within the UK is simply mirroring this global focus, in a more proactive than reactive way. The danger however, lies in the cost of such foresight.

Jamie Warren, UK & Irish Director at KMB Shipping highlights the need for further consideration of the implications on the transportation industry, “Although it’s great to see the government shifting towards proactive policy making to tackle environmental issues, there needs to be further consultation with hauliers and the freight industry to ensure the sudden cost of upgrading vehicles doesn’t cause prices to rapidly increase for customers”

The true cost of global environmental responsibility may only be seen once the zones are all fully functioning. Until then, firms must prepare to meet the standards required or find alternative delivery routes.

Jamie Warren is UK & Irish Director at KMB Shipping, who offer 30 years’ experience in delivering our full range of shipping services to over 70 different countries, to a growing international client list. As members of BIFA, we offer a flexible and fully tailored service, managing the whole shipping process for you from initial phone call to safe delivery. Contact our professional, friendly and highly experienced team today to discuss how we can accommodate your shipping requirements.