The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a “major move” in tackling toxic air in the capital, a politician has said, as the initiative is launched in central London today.

Within the ULEZ, which came into force today, drivers whose cars do not meet certain emissions standards must pay a £12.50 charge to drive in central London.

The zone is set to be expanded to the North and South Circular Roads in October 2021.

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly Member for Enfield and Haringey, welcomed the move.

She said: “Today marks a major move forward in tackling the capital’s toxic air, which contributes to the early deaths of almost 10,000 Londoners per year and stunts children’s lungs.

“Toxic air is nothing less than a public health emergency and requires urgent and radical action.”

Ms McCartney also said the ULEZ meant London is “heading in the right direction” to meets its target of zero emissions from road transport by 2017.

She added: “But we can’t solve our air pollution problem alone – we need the Government to come on board to further boost the Mayor’s £48 million vehicle scrappage fund to support small businesses, charities and low-income Londoners”.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also welcomed the ULEZ, saying: “Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation.

“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 underdeveloped lungs in our city.”