How low emission zones work

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The Transport Scotland Act 2019 provides the legislation to create and enforce low emission zones.

The national standards for low emission zones – such as emission levels, penalties and exemptions, will be set when regulations are finalised. Local authorities will then use these regulations to design each low emission zone based on their own specific, local requirements.

It is proposed that:

  • low emission zone entry will be based on the Euro emission engine classification standards – the proposed minimum criteria is:
    • Euro 6/VI for diesel vehicles
    • Euro 4/IV for petrol vehicles
    • Euro VI for heavy diesel vehicles (including older vehicles retrofitted to operate as Euro VI).
  • low emission zones operate continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round.
  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used, which are linked to a national vehicle licencing database, to monitor vehicles driving in a low emission zone. They will detect vehicles which do not comply with the minimum Euro emission standards.
  • low emission zones will be based on a penalty notice approach, to discourage non-compliant vehicles from driving into the zone.
  • the design, implementation and operation of low emission zones will involve grace periods for commercial fleet operators and private vehicle owners to give them time to prepare.
  • exemptions will be specified in the regulations.
  • Each year, local authorities will publish a report on the effectiveness of low emission zones.

Euro emission standards

While the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 does not set the mandatory vehicle emissions standards for driving in a low emission zone, it does set provisions for Ministers to create such regulations.

The consultation entitled ‘Building Scotland’s Low Emission Zones’outlined proposals for the minimum emission standards for low emission zones to be Euro 4/IV for petrol engines (generally vehicles registered from 2006), and Euro 6/VI for diesel engines (generally registered from 2016).

The use of Euro standards is commonplace across European low emission zones.

A basic vehicle registration checker is available here.

Currently, vehicle age is used as a guide to the corresponding Euro classification, noting the dates when each Euro category was introduced.

  • The Euro 6 standard for diesel cars was introduced in September 2014, with any new car sold after September 2015 having to meet this standard.
  • The Euro 4 standard for petrol engines was introduced in January 2005, with any new vehicles sold after January 2006 having to meet this standard.

Support for bus operators

The Scottish Government is making over £9.75 million available in 2020/21 for the Bus Emission Abatement Retrofit Fund (BEAR)to support bus operators with the financial costs associated with engine and exhaust retrofitting.

Read the latest news on support for bus operators here.

This technology helps reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from older buses to help them to achieve the Euro VI emission standard. Installing the retrofit technology ensures the bus is the emission equivalent of a new, modern bus.

In addition, the Scottish Green Bus Fund (SGBF) has supported 475 LEZ compliant buses into the fleet through £17.2 million in Scottish Government funding across eight annual rounds of investment.

The fund aimed to encourage more low carbon emission buses onto Scotland’s roads.

The Scottish Green Bus Fund has been replaced with the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme.

The Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme builds on the eight rounds of the Scottish Green Bus Fund, held each year between 2011 and 2018. The new fund will increase the level of environmental protection, improve air quality, and support the acceleration of uptake of the lowest emitting bus technology in support of emissions targets. Read more about the new scheme here.

Operators of low carbon buses also remain eligible for an enhanced rate of the Bus Service Operators Grant, which further incentivises the uptake and use of green buses – click to find out more about the Bus Service Operators Grant.

Support for business/members of the public

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the move towards cleaner, low carbon modes of transport. The LEZ Support Fund made available targeted grant funding of £1.09 million for taxis, heavy goods vehicles, and micro-businesses. Depending on uptake, funding is anticipated to increase every year until 2021/22.

Further information on LEZ support funds are available at: lowemissionzones.scot/support-fund.

Various grants and loans are additionally available via the Energy Saving Trust.