Rishi Sunak likes to be flown by helicopter to his appointments, but now the British Prime Minister is discovering his love for cars. “I stand by the drivers’ side,” emphasized the head of government and announced that he would review a number of restrictions. Free travel for free citizens instead of the success of climate goals – Sunak sets wrong priorities, criticize environmentalists. The conservatives just want to score cheaply, they say. Sunak’s Tories are trailing opposition Labor party in polls and elections are due next year.

But now the Prime Minister hopes that the environmental zone will stop the trend. The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, in which only vehicles with low pollutant emissions are allowed to drive, was once brought to life by the conservative Mayor Boris Johnson for central London. The aim: better air for the residents of the British capital and the numerous tourists. Johnson’s successor, Sadiq Khan, is now having the environmental zone massively expanded, and from this Tuesday (August 29) it will apply throughout the city.

Many motorists reject the environmental zone

But many motorists are vehemently opposed to the project – and this is where the Sunaks Tories come into play. When a successor to the resigning Boris Johnson was recently elected in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, the Tory candidate won – quite contrary to the trend. He campaigned exclusively against the expansion of the ULEZ. His success now serves as a role model for Sunak. Because the decisive factor is that Mayor Khan belongs to the Labor Party and has long been a target of the government. There will also be elections in London in 2024, so far the conservatives in the capital have mainly attracted attention with a chaotic selection of candidates.

Sunak is now demonstratively on the side of the 30 million motorists in Great Britain. “The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and depend on their cars,” he said after the Uxbridge election. The fact that rural areas like Sunak’s constituency cannot be compared with the cosmopolitan city of London, that the cities of Birmingham and Bath also have an environmental zone – that’s a gift.

These emission standards must be met

In order to drive for free in the low-emission zone, cars must meet certain emission standards. According to the London authorities, the Euro 4 standard is usually met for petrol engines from first registrations from 2005, while diesel vehicles usually meet the Euro 6 standard from September 2015. For vehicles with higher pollutant emissions, a daily fee of 12.50 pounds will be charged (about 14.50 euros) due. Failure to pay could result in a £180 fine, or £90 if paid within two weeks. Initially, however, City Hall signaled that warnings would be issued rather than penalties. Tourists also have to be careful: even if their vehicles are environmentally friendly, they have to register online beforehand.

Paul Scully, Secretary of State for the City of London, criticized Mayor Khan for shooting sparrows with cannons. Businesses, charities and people on low incomes would be disadvantaged. According to calculations by the car service provider RAC, 690,000 vehicles in London are affected, not counting commuters or visitors from outside the city limits. The city provides financial support for conversions or new purchases. For many people, however, that will hardly be enough.

“Run” on vehicles built before 1983

Some react radically. In recent months, almost 300 of the 2,750 newly installed cameras have been damaged or stolen, police said. Neighboring, conservative-run communities don’t want to put up signs for ULEZ on their own land. On the other hand, classic car sellers benefit: Because vehicles built before 1983 are exempt from the rules, car experts have identified a real “run”. Financially, the environmental zone is definitely worth it. She grossed £320million between October 2021 and April 2023. Conservatives say that the mayor wants to balance his budget with the expansion.

Khan rejects this, and he has repeatedly ruled out a short-term reversal. Rather, Khan always emphasizes that 90 percent of the vehicles have no problems at all. And finally, “Millions of Londoners could breathe more clear air”. But his party prefers not to comment on the subject at all.