The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that the city’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is to be expanded to cover the entire area within the Greater London Authority boundary, from August 29, 2023. The plan is causing some controversy, but has now received backing from a world-famous name – Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
The expansion plan will mean that hundreds of thousands of drivers in non-compliant vehicles will have to pay £12.50 (US$15) a day to enter the Greater London area from 29 August 2023. Kahn described the move as “urgent action” to protect Londoners from the damage caused by toxic vehicle emissions.
The highly controversial decision has divided the opinions of local MPs, small businesses and commuters. And now it has caught the attention of Hollywood A-lister Leonado DiCaprio, who has praised the London Mayor’s plan as being “the kind of large-scale, decisive action we need to halve emissions this decade.”
In addition to his high-profile acting career, DiCaprio is a well-known climate activist. In 1998, he established Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to the protection and welfare of all earth’s inhabitants”. He also sits on the board of several environmental organizations including WWF, the Natural Resources Defense Council, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Pristine Seas and Oceans 5.
“London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to expand his flagship air quality policy, the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) will mean 5 million more people breathing cleaner air, and will help to build a better, greener, fairer London for everyone,” DiCaprio wrote to his 19 million followers in a Facebook post. “This is the kind of large-scale, decisive action we need to halve emissions this decade, coupled with the implementation of nature-based solutions. The expansion of the ULEZ will reduce the number of Londoners living in areas exceeding interim World Health Organization (WHO) targets for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by 13 percent – including children at 145 schools.”
Several MPs and political groups have criticised the Oscar-winning actor’s approval, calling him “out of touch”.
“A millionaire in California who regularly travels by private jet might not understand the devastating cost of living impact Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion will have on people,” says Nick Rogers, GLA Conservatives transport spokesperson. “But Londoners do, which is why an overwhelming majority voted against it in the consultation and the latest YouGov polling. Given the overwhelming reaction from Londoners against this decision, it is clear that Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ plans have hit an iceberg and not even Leonardo DiCaprio can save him.”
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined Minister for London Paul Scully, and 26 other Conservative MPs by signing an open letter in The Telegraph asking the London mayor to cancel his ULEZ expansion plans.