Next month, on the 1st June Birmingham’s Category D Clean Air Zone (CAZ) comes into force. This means that from the 1st June the most polluting vehicles (unless exempt) will be charged to drive in the zone. The zone will be in force 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and will cover the roads within the A4540 Middle Ring Road.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth believes the introduction of the CAZ is a necessary step in our fight to tackle the harmful and illegal levels of NO2 in our city. Air pollution contributes up to 1,000 premature deaths each year in Birmingham through conditions such as lung disease and cancer. We do recognise that certain groups may be more adversely impacted than others by the financial cost of adapting to the CAZ but (as environmentalists) we also recognise that a clean air, low car strategy will bring long-term health benefits to all of us.
The CAZ is only the first step in tackling poor air quality. We also need improved walking and cycling infrastructure and more investment in public transport. Money raised from the charges (and any subsequent fines) is ring fenced for sustainable transport measures. We fear that if the CAZ was abandoned now it would remove incentive for people to take measures to change the way they travel to less polluting forms.