The toughest emission standard in the world came into operation in central London Monday with the launch of a new levy on the most polluting vehicles entering the heart of the British capital.
Operating 24 hours, seven days a week, the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is aimed at helping to reduce toxic air pollution in London.
Motorists who drive into the zone in a vehicle that does not meet new emission standards will have to pay a daily charge. There will be two ULEZ charge levels: 12.50 pounds a day (16.30 U.S. dollars) for cars, vans and motorbikes and 100 pounds (130 dollars) a day for freight trucks, buses and coaches.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "This is a landmark day for our city. Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation. I simply refuse to be yet another politician who ignores it.
"The ULEZ is the centerpiece of our plans to clean up London's air -- the boldest plans of any city on the planet, and the eyes of the world are on us.
"This is also about social justice -- people in the most deprived parts of London, who are least likely to own a car, suffer the worst effects of harmful air pollution. I will not stand by and watch children grow up with under-developed lungs in our city. The ULEZ is a vital step towards helping combat London's illegal air."
City Hall said in a statement: "Polluting vehicles account for around 50 percent of London's harmful NOx air emissions. Air pollution has an economic cost to the capital of up to 3.7 billion pounds (4.83 dollars) every year.
"The ULEZ will help address London's toxic air health crisis that currently leads to thousands of premature deaths annually, and increases the risk of asthma, cancer and dementia."
It is estimated the new controls will reduce traffic-generated NOx levels in the zone by 45 percent.
The most recent data on air pollution in London, carried out by King's College, London, revealed that more than 2 million Londoners still live in areas that exceed legal limits for NO2, 400,000 of whom are children under the age of 18.
Professor Jonathan Grigg of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: "Air pollution can have major health implications on the developing child, with early exposure proven to increase the risk of asthma and lung infections, and these can be life-threatening. Approximately 50 per cent of air pollution comes from road transport and 45 percent comes from diesel, so the introduction of London's ULEZ is extremely welcome."