Major cities forced to launch Low Emission Zones this year despite having UK's 'cleanest air quality'

Major cities forced to launch Low Emission Zones this year despite having UK's 'cleanest air quality'

WATCH: Another new Clean Air Zone launches

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 09/02/2024

- 12:47

Manchester was found to have the worst air quality of any major UK city

Two major UK cities are being forced to roll out Low Emission Zones despite having some of the cleanest air quality rates across the country.

New research has shown that Edinburgh and Glasgow top the list of 14 major UK cities with the cleanest air ratings between 2017 and January 2024.

The data is based on the average Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 concentration of air quality which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time.

Due to its small size, PM2.5 can be absorbed into the bloodstream upon inhalation, which includes dust, dirt and smoke.

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Clean Air Zone sign and car exhaust fumes

Seven of the largest UK cities are required to have an emissions-based charging zone


Edinburgh had an average PM2.5 rating of 4.85, while Glasgow narrowly beat out Leeds with a rating of 5.7 compared to 5.88, according to data from InsureMy and IQAir.

Despite this, Edinburgh and Glasgow are set to see major changes introduced with its Low Emission Zones in May and June later this year.

On May 31, Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone will require all drivers with a non-compliant vehicle to pay £60 after a one-year grace period for residents.

Similarly, Edinburgh will begin charging drivers of highly polluting petrol and diesel vehicles from June 1, after a two-year grace period was introduced for all motorists.

The Scottish Government has been supportive of the Low Emission Zones in a bid to reduce pollution, promote active travel and support public transport.

Edinburgh and Glasgow, in addition to Aberdeen and Dundee, will begin charging for the Low Emission Zone later this year.

Edinburgh City Council has outlined plans to achieve net zero emissions from transport across the Scottish capital by the end of the decade.

The emissions data found that Manchester had the worst air quality with a PM2.5 rating of 10.58, followed by Belfast (10.35) and Bristol (10.24).

Of the 14 major cities included in the emissions data, six areas have a Clean Air Zone, Low Emission Zone or London’s Ulez, in addition to Manchester which is still consulting with the Government about its plan.

Stewart Barnett, spokesperson for InsureMy, said: “In the past, London would have probably been the worst city in the UK for air quality, but our data analysis suggests it has cleaner air than Bristol, Belfast and Manchester.

“Whether this is a result of the congestion charge and ULEZ having an impact is open to debate but, even so, the UK appears to have comparatively good air compared to other major capital cities.”

All British cities compare favourably compared to other major cities around the world, especially Lahore in Pakistan which has a rating of 97.4, making it the most polluted city in the world.


Glasgow Low Emission Zone

Supporters of the Glasgow Low Emission Zone protesting for the LEZ to be introduced immediately


Major European cities like Paris (12.7) and Rome (12.6) were both more polluted than any major city in the UK included in the study.

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