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February 4th, 2008:

UK’s First Emissions Zone Begins

The most heavily polluting lorries are facing charges of £200 per day to enter Greater London as Britain’s first low emission zone (LEZ) comes into force.

The £49m scheme uses cameras to check all lorries over 12-tonnes entering the zone against a database of vehicles certified as meeting EU exhaust limits.

Firms whose vehicles are not on the database will be told to pay up.

The rules, aimed at improving London’s air quality, will be extended to cover buses and coaches in July.

By 2010, it will also cover some vans and smaller lorries. Cars and motorcycles are exempt.

24-hour enforcement

Firms are responsible for making sure their vehicles comply with the anti-pollution rules, which stipulate the amount of airborne dirt and nitrogen oxide each vehicle is permitted to emit.

Unlike London’s congestion charge zone, which is lifted in the evenings and at weekends, the LEZ will be in force 24 hours a day, every day.

It also covers a larger area of 610 sq miles (1,580 sq km).

Failing vehicles will be issued with a warning letter the first time they are seen in the zone.

Despite significant improvements in recent years, London’s air pollution is the worst of any city in the UK and among the worst in Europe
Nick Fairholme

In response to claims not enough was being done to make haulage companies aware of the new requirements, firms have been given an extra 28 days from the launch of the zone to ensure their vehicles comply before the fines kick in.

Firms which fail to pay the £200 charge will be fined £1,000.

Hauliers have protested about the new rules, which they say will be expensive to comply with.

But Transport for London, which is implementing the zone, says it will improve quality of life for people with asthma, cardio-vascular disease and other health conditions.

It says London’s poor air quality causes an estimated 1,000 premature deaths per year.

Nick Fairholme, head of the LEZ, said: “Despite significant improvements in recent years, London’s air pollution is the worst of any city in the UK and among the worst in Europe.

“The LEZ aims to reduce traffic pollution by deterring the most individually polluting diesel-engine lorries, buses, coaches, minibuses and large vans from driving within our city.”

All lorries made after October 2001 automatically comply with the EU standards of particulate emissions of 0.05g per km. Older vehicles can be adapted to comply with the rules.

TfL said it had identified 120,000 lorries of over 12 tonnes inside the zone during six months of monitoring last year and estimates that about 10% do not meet EU standards.

Low emission zones are already planned or in operation in 70 towns and cities in eight European countries including Norway, the Netherlands and Germany.

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds says other UK towns and cities with pollution problems will be watching the implementation of the LEZ with interest.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/02/04

Climate Set For ‘Sudden Shifts’

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

Many of Earth’s climate systems will undergo a series of sudden shifts this century as a result of human-induced climate change, a study suggests. A number of these shifts could occur this century, say the report’s authors.

They argue that society should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the idea that climate change will be a gradual process.

The work by an international team appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

“Our findings suggest that a variety of tipping elements could reach their critical point within this century under human-induced climate change,” said Professor Tim Lenton from the University of East Anglia, the lead researcher on the study.

“The greatest threats are tipping of the Arctic sea-ice and the Greenland ice sheet, and at least five other elements could surprise us by exhibiting a nearby tipping point.”

The bulk of climate scientists now believe that human induced global warming has begun to affect some aspects of our climate.

Risk assessment

But that change is the start of a series of more dramatic changes if global warming continues, according to a group of more than 50 scientists.

In a formal survey the researchers said that a number of systems that influence the Earth’s weather patterns could begin to collapse suddenly if there’s even a slight increase in global temperatures.

At greatest risk is Arctic sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet and the west Antarctic ice sheet.

The researchers have listed and ranked nine ecological systems that they say could be lost this century as a result of global warming. The nine tipping elements and the time it will take them to undergo a major transition are:

  • Melting of Arctic sea-ice (about 10 years)
  • Decay of the Greenland ice sheet (about 300 years)
  • Collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet (about 300 years)
  • Collapse of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (about 100 years)
  • Increase in the El Nino Southern Oscillation (about 100 years)
  • Collapse of the Indian summer monsoon (about 1 year)
  • Greening of the Sahara/Sahel and disruption of the West African monsoon (about 10 years)
  • Dieback of the Amazon rainforest (about 50 years)
  • Dieback of the Boreal Forest (about 50 years)

The paper also demonstrates how, in principle, early warning systems could be established using real-time monitoring and modelling to detect the proximity of certain tipping points.