April 8 (UPI) -- London introduced the world's first 24-hour city Ultra Low Emission Zone Monday in an effort to reduce air pollution and protect public health in Britain's capital.
London Mayor Shadiq Khan said the zone, where vehicles will have to meet tougher emission standards or face charges, has already created changes. He said 55 percent of all vehicles driving through the zone were already meeting the new emission standards, as are 75 percent of buses.
Vehicles are responsible for about half of the dangerous nitrogen oxide emissions in London, which experts say contributes to asthma, cancer, dementia and thousands of premature deaths annually. Officials said nitrogen oxide levels were reduced by about 20 percent in advance of the zone taking effect.
"This is a landmark day for our city," Khan said. "Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation. I simply refuse to be yet another politician who ignores it."
The fines could be hefty. The Transport for London website said most passenger vehicles surpassing the emissions standards in the zone must pay about $16.35 daily. For larger vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tons, or buses topping five tons, the charge would reach $130.68 daily.
"The ULEZ will nearly half road-based [nitrogen oxide] emissions in central London, reducing air pollution," said Alex Williams, Transport for London's director of city planning. "We have upgraded our bus fleet so that all buses in central London meet the ULEZ standard with all buses [becoming] London ULEZ compliant by 2020."
Daniela Fecht, a geospatial health lecturer at Imperial College in London, told CNN similar prior efforts have not worked and the results of the new law will have to closely evaluated.