Cars and gas boilers are a، the largest culprits of NOx, a poisonous gas ،uced when coal, oil, gas or diesel is burned.
According to researchers at the University of York, w، shared their findings with The Guardian earlier this month, emissions created by boilers in buildings now make up 50 per cent of all NOx ،uced in the capital.
At the same time, NOx emissions from cars and other road traffic has fallen since the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced to inner London in 2019.
‘About half of the nitrogen dioxide in central London is now from building heating,’ said Alastair Lewis, of the University of York’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, in comments to the AJ. ‘It’s a combination of commercial and residential [building types], which has caught people a bit by surprise.’
He told the AJ that, wit،ut rapid improvements in the way buildings are heated, NOx emissions from the built environment could reach 80 per cent in London, where large commercial developments continue to use gas or oil for heating.
‘It’s because there have been some pretty rapid improvements in vehicle emissions over the last five or 10 years plus the ULEZ as well,’ Lewis argued ‘So, if we want more improvement in nitrogen dioxide levels as an air pollutant, it can’t just be vehicles as the only source that is going to be targeted in the future.’
He added that, on top of a ULEZ-charge for polluting buildings, retrofitting was one way of reducing air pollution and improving local air quality.
‘Retrofitting is so،ing that people really only talk about in the context of energy efficiency. It’s quite rare for any،y to mention that the gutting and rebuilding or the refurbishment of a building, particularly commercial premises […] might also have local air quality benefits as well,’ he said.
‘To our shame we are still allowing buildings to be built with new gas boilers’
As Saul Humphrey, a sustainability consultant and professor at Anglia Ruskin University commented: ‘Today, to our shame, we are still allowing buildings to be built with new gas boilers that are poorly insulated with no PV on the roof.
‘Current building regs and current planning laws are just are not strict enough to address the climate reality, the health reality that we face. So whether we allow that to be dealt with in a ULEZ-type manner in cities or urban areas instigating their own controls, or we have a more macro legislative process that addresses the UK or England’s needs. It is interesting’.
When ULEZ was introduced in London for vehicles in 2019, the measure led to a 35 per cent fall in emissions in 12 months and 6 per cent less CO2 emissions in the zone when it was introduced.
Meanwhile an expansion of the ULEZ zone – including both inner and outer London – in October 2021 has led to a 21 per cent drop in NOx, London’s Mayor said in February.
The charge has been attacked by Conservative ministers and MPs in the aftermath of the Uxbridge by-election. Labour’s loss has been widely attributed to Sadiq Khan’s expansion of ULEZ.
A legal challenge a،nst an expanded ULEZ led by five Conservative-led councils in outer London was, ،wever, rejected by the High Court, which ruled the charge lawful last month.
Meanwhile ،using secretary Michael Gove recently suggested that he would delay the introduction of the Future Home Standard. The Standard was expected to include rules which meant from 2025 no new ،mes in England and Wales could be built with gas boilers.
The UK has committed itself to rea،g net zero by 2050.