28 March 2023

Ricardo helps City of Warsaw to introduce its first ever Low Emission Zone

Ricardo is applying its world-leading expertise in air quality modelling to advise the City of Warsaw in its ambition to introduce a Low Emission Zone, funded through the Clean Air Fund’s Breathe Warsaw programme.

Ricardo, a global strategic environmental and engineering consulting company, has won a contract funded by the Clean Air Fund to support the City of Warsaw in Poland to assess the impacts of different Low Emission Zone (LEZ) options so that the city authority, businesses and the public has clear evidence on the costs and benefits for adopting a preferred scheme. 

Polish cities face severe air quality challenges. In 2018, 36 out of 50 most polluted cities in the European Union (EU) were in Poland. The country’s capital, Warsaw, is one of the most polluted cities – with exposure to air pollution having a health-related cost to society of an estimated 4.2 billion euros every year.  It also has one of the highest vehicle ownership rates (859 per 1,000 people) in Europe and has seen a growing influx of vehicles from outside of the city. This is driven the desire by the city to introduce an ambitious Low Emission Zone in the city by 2024, but doing so in a way that does not disproportionately impact groups of individuals or businesses.  The Clean Air Fund is supporting the city with these ambitions through its Breathe Warsaw programme.

Ricardo will model the changes in pollutant concentrations which will result from the various LEZ options; assess the health impacts resulting from these changes in emissions and concentrations; carry out a cost benefit analysis of the different LEZ options; and consider how these costs and benefits are distributed between different social groups and business sectors. Ricardo has already engaged the Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza (AGH) University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland to support with local data collection, engagement with key stakeholders and translation of final deliverables.

Guy Hitchcock, Technical Director at Ricardo, said: “The United Nations Environment Programme has publicly stated that air pollution causes one in nine deaths globally, and that consequently it is the most important environmental health risk of our time. We have worked with many city authorities across the UK and internationally to help them to reduce the negative impacts of air pollution. We are honoured that the Clean Air Fund has entrusted us to support the City of Warsaw’s ambition to move towards low emission transportation by using our analysis to improve air quality in Poland’s national capital.” 

Michał Olszewski, Warsaw Deputy Mayor said: “Air quality is a key issue for number of cities all around the world. We decided to cooperate with Clean Air Fund to learn from the experiences of others' actions aiming to curb transport pollution. We will undertake serious steps by implementing the LEZ, therefore the report prepared by Ricardo will be an important input to make the right decisions.”

Supporting the City of Warsaw is the latest example of Ricardo advising cities seeking to improve urban air quality by implementing zero or low emissions zones and clean air zones. In February 2022, Britain’s first zero emissions zone scheme was launched, covering nine streets in the centre of Oxford, a scheme that Ricardo designed with the council. Elsewhere in the UK, London has introduced its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), while Bath, Birmingham and Bradford have active Clean Air Zones (CAZ). Air quality specialists from Ricardo have supported London in the assessment of its ULEZ and have been working with local authorities in Bradford, Southampton and Cardiff to complete CAZ feasibility studies. With Ricardo’s support, Bradford secured £43m of UK Government funding to implement measures that are expected to reduce pollutant concentrations in the city to below legislative levels and improve public health five years earlier than would be the case without the CAZ.