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Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters

The reduction of air pollutants

Local Emissions Zones (LEZ) can be an effective way of reducing PM10 and soot emissions. An increasing number of cities are implementing LEZs, either for all vehicles or for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) only. The LEZs which are for HGVs were graded lower than the LEZs for all vehicles. Also these zones should be introduced early, should be big in size, aim at ambitious emissions standards (Euro 4 and better) and be strictly enforced. Bans of high emitters might relocate pollutants instead of reducing them, so they are not necessarily leading to a good evaluation.



Dusseldorf has a low emission zone for all vehicles since 1.2.2009. The zone was enlarged considerable beginning from 1.2.2013 onwards including also a district beyond the river Rhine and almost the whole area of the city. Since 1.7.2014 Euro 4 standard or better is required. Only vehicles with green stickers may enter. Comprehensive controls and a significantly large zone contribute to the reduction effect of the zone.

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Capital of Germany

A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced on January 1, 2008. Strictest standards were introduced in Januray 2010, demanding Euro 4 standard or better. The LEZ covers the inner city: 88 km2 and one third of inhabitants. Thanks to a close monitoring and strict enforcement, the LEZ has led to significant emission reductions. Soot emissions from exhaust pipes decreased by more than 50% and NOx by about 20%. The composition of the vehicles changed and about 90% of the cars driving in Berlin both inside and outside the LEZ had a minimum of Euro 4 standard. Berlin has demonstrated the positive effects by intensive measuring and data evaluation programmes. This contributed to the fact that opponents have lost all court cases against introducing or upgrading LEZ. All exemptions will run out by 2015. Berlin demands measures on national level to incentivise Euro 6 cars.

Further information (Ger.):……

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A low emission zone (LEZ) covering the whole city area has been introduced in Stuttgart in 2008. The green sticker (representing Euro 4 emission standard or better) became obligatory for vehicles since January 2013. A transit ban for heavy duty vehicles above 3.5 tonnes introduced in 2010 was then limited to a smaller part of the city and has been removed for cleanest vehicle categories. Controls have been expanded on moving and on stationary traffic in 2012.

Euro 3 diesel cars, also if retrofitted with open particulate filters, shall be banned from the city when the next stage of the LEZ (Blue Zone) is enacted. For that, an amendment of the national sticker regulation is needed: The city of Stuttgart and the federal state of Baden-Württemberg demand new stickers (blue stickers) for Euro 5 and Euro 6 cars from national government and the Real Driving Emissions of cars to comply with the Euro 6 limit values.

Driving bans for high emitting diesel cars and bans of burning wood in stoves are being deliberated for 2016 when days with low air exchange are imminent. A public warning system will be established. Inhabitants and commuters are then asked to leave the car at home and switch to public transport or use bikes.

City website with information on low emission zones (Ger.):

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Capital of Portugal

The city of Lisbon has a Low Emission Zone (LEZ), introduced in the inner city centre in 2011. In 2012, a large area was added to the LEZ, which now comprises two sub-zones and currently covers 33% of the whole city. Having previously operated weaker low emission standard setting, it requires Euro 2 since 2014 in the larger part of the zone and Euro 3 in the smaller city centre part. After the LEZ was largely unenforced during the first periods of its introduction, with only traffic police checks on a random basis and no penalties being applied, the city is now evaluating the introduction of automatic number plate recognition to facilitate enforcement. In a next step – which was initially scheduled for 2013, but has not started yet – the LEZ would exclude Euro 3 cars in the smaller inner city zone. Public information campaigns have been set by Lisbon municipality to raise awareness and acceptance for the LEZ.

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Capital of France

A new anti-air-pollution plan from February 2015 introduces a low emission zone (LEZ) covering the whole city inside the orbital road. The introduction of LEZs in France is a national responsibility and permitted through the national environmental law Grenelle II from 2009. Its possible effects on air quality were investigated in feasibility studies before its introduction.

From July 2015, a first LEZ phase is going to be in operation, forcing lorries and buses to meet at least Euro I emissions standards. From January 2016 all vehicles must be Euro I and between 2017 and 2020, Euro II, III and IV and will be phased out. Although the plans are good, the regulations are currently not very strict and it is not clear yet how the LEZ is going to be implemented and controlled.

Most importantly, the anti-pollution plan, initiated by the new mayor, further envisages a ban on old diesel vehicles from 2015 and a complete ban of diesel cars by 2020. Another mid-term target is banning all cars on weekdays.

There is already a traffic ban concerning heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes. It restricts HGV access to Paris during certain times of the day on certain days of the week.

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Capital of Austria

Since 2008, Vienna has banned lorries manufactured before 1992 from its city. In 2014, this ban was extended to lorries with Euro I exhaust emissions class. A further extension is scheduled for 2016 which will ban trucks with Euro II exhaust emissions class. The ban covers the whole city including motorways (414 km²) with some exceptions for Euro II (Euro III from 2016) commercial vehicles with loading purposes.

There was a debate on the introduction of an LEZ, but in the end the measure was rejected.

More information (ger.):

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Capital of Sweden

In Stockholm, there has been a low emission zone (LEZ) for heavy goods vehicles already since 1996. The zone covers the entire city centre. Diesel trucks and buses over 6 years old are required to meet at least Euro II standards. Diesel trucks less than 8 years old need to meet either Euro II or III. Euro IV vehicles will be phased out before 2017 and Euro V trucks before 2021. As the LEZ addresses only part of the total vehicle fleet, it has a limited scope. However, the timetable for phasing out Euro IV & V shows the continuous future development of this measure. Interestingly, the timetable for transport measures mentions the introduction of an LEZ with a ban on fossil fuels for sometime between 2025 and 2035, a glimpse into the future of local standards for urban motorised transport.

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Capital of Finland

Helsinki currently has two schemes that regulate the access of high emitters to the city centre. On the one hand, since May 2010 there is a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) that requires a minimum standard of Euro III for buses and Euro V for waste trucks. Passenger cars or other vehicles are not affected and have full access, because an LEZ suitability study in 2007 did not predict many advantages from restricting them. On the other hand, an access restriction to a different perimeter for lorries longer than 12 metres is in place.

The decrease in PM10 and NO2 values as well as the decreasing share bus emissions comprise of total particulate emissions since the introduction of the LEZ in 2010 indicate the possibility that these schemes had an impact.

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Capital of United Kingdom

In 2008, London introduced a low emission zone (LEZ) requiring Euro III standards for particulate matter for heavy goods vehicles greater than or equal to 3.5 tonnes in most of Greater London. The regulations tightened to Euro IV emission standards for particulate matter for heavy goods vehicles and buses, and Euro III for heavier vans and mini buses from 2012. Plans to tighten the LEZ to meet the Euro IV standards for NOx from 2015 have been scrapped for HGVs and coaches, although the municipal bus fleet will still be expected to meet this standard. In 2013, an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was envisaged for 2020, regulating the emissions in an area of about 22 km² in central London. Here, the highest emission standards are planned to be required for all types of vehicles. Final requirements are under consultation. The standards that will be adopted are still uncertain. Furthermore, there have been steps backwards during the past years: plans for the ULEZ have been downgraded from banning pre-Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol to a £12.50 daily charge for such vehicles. Additionally, up to 30,000 vehicles will be exempt for a further three years from any charges. The ULEZ might officially be approved in spring 2015 at the earliest.

Transport for London information on the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Engl.):…

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The City of Graz does not operate a Low Emission Zone (LEZ), because 70% voted against it in a local referendum in 2012. Nevertheless, a regional LEZ for lorries has been operating in Graz for several years, actually obliging them to comply with Euro III emission standards since 2014.

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Capital of Denmark

In 2006, the national government allowed Copenhagen and four other cities to introduce a low emission zone (LEZ). Copenhagen has had an LEZ for heavy goods vehicles since 2008. Since 2010, all vehicles heavier than 3.5t (buses and lorries) have been required to comply with at least the Euro IV standards or to be equipped with a certified particulate filter. The zone covers almost the whole city area. The city would like to impose a stricter LEZ but this is not possible for vans or personal cars unless the national government changes the law.

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As there are no national regulations promoting low emission zones (LEZs), Zurich lacks the power to create them. However, when the city has asked the Canton of Zurich to cooperatively introduce a LEZ in the local air quality plan, they were not supported.

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Capital of Czech Republic

After the necessary prerequisites were created in national law, the city of Prague decided to introduce a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) starting in 2016. There will be two different schemes in place. The LEZ for cars in its first stage requires Euro 1 for petrol vehicles and Euro 3 for diesel vehicles. In 2018, diesel vehicles will need to comply with Euro 4 standards to enter the city. The LEZs will initially be implemented at a very low level, but regulations will be tightened in 2018. Even though not in place at the time of evaluation and no experience with enforcement exists as yet, Prague has nevertheless made huge steps forward.

Additionally, there is a permit scheme for lorries. In this scheme, buses and trucks heavier than 3.5 tonnes are restricted in the city centre and trucks heavier than 6t are restricted within the wider ring road. Euro IV compliance is obligatory to be granted a permit. Furthermore, there is the ARS (Access Control Scheme) for coaches and tour buses.

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Capital of Ireland

Dublin has no Low Emission Zone, but it does restrict access for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV). Since 2007, HGVs with five or more axles are banned from 7.00am to 7.00pm every day from a designated area in the city centre. A limited permit scheme allows delivery vehicles to enter the city centre on specific routes and only with a valid, paid permit.

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Capital of Italy

The city limits access of vehicles to its city centre. There is a Low Emission Zone (LEZ, Zona Traffico Limitato) in operation in an area of about 5.5km². This area was enlarged in 2013. Different vehicle classes are subject to different regulations. Cars with Euro 0 emissions standards are not allowed in the city centre at all. Euro 1-6 cars are not allowed on workdays during the day and on Saturdays in the afternoon, unless they have, for instance, a resident’s or a delivery permit. Some areas in the city centre are also closed at night-time. Lorries without permits have different, very restrictive access times depending on their emission class.

Further, less restrictive regulations exist for two additional concentric LEZ bands, called ring rail zone and green zone. For the ring rail zone, a progressive implementation of stricter emission class limitations for all vehicles over the next years is currently under discussion. For lorries, this progressively increasing restriction has already been planned.

Although electronic gates (more precisely electronic signs) and cameras control access to the city centre LEZ, enforcement does not seem not be efficient: E-Gates are often disregarded.

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There is no Low Emission Zone (LEZ), as this measure has to be decided at national level. Nevertheless, Lyon is one of eight French cities taking part in an experimental approach for an LEZ called ZAPA: Zone d’Action Prioritaire pour l’Air (Priority Action Zone for Air). A feasibility study on ZAPAs had the result of reducing PM10 by 10% and NO2 by 17% on average. This voluntary initiative was abandoned in December 2012.

The 2008 “Plan de protection de l’atmosphère” (PPA) includes several small measures, like restrictions against most polluting large goods and heavy goods vehicles in the PPA area. According to the revision of the “Plan de Protection de l’Atmosphère de l’agglomération Lyonnaise” of January 2014, NO2 emissions should be reduced by 40% and PM10 by 30% by 2016.

In Lyon, there is no sign the local authorities have taken new steps toward a binding regulation. The only specific measure is a ban on heavy duty vehicles with emissions standards below Euro 5 at the end of the year 2016. This ban will, however, only be activated when there is a persistent breach in air pollution levels. In order to declare a ban both on passenger cars and heavy goods vehicles, there must be a breach of at least a 6 consecutive days of air pollution limits. For light commercial vehicles, bans are being discussed in relation to the progress and impacts of other measures.

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Capital of the Netherlands

The city has a low emission zone (LEZ) only for commercial and heavy goods vehicles, which was defined in 2008. Only Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) that meet the Euro IV or Euro V standards and retrofitted Euro III less than 8 years old are allowed in the zone. Fines are rather steep at €230. Vehicles are automatically scanned and thus enforcement is close to 100%. Nevertheless, there are some exemptions and short-term permits with daily fees.

The city believes an LEZ for passenger cars would arouse too much aversion. Also, the city did not tighten up the LEZ because it thinks that this would not be cost-efficient. In comparison, the city of Utrecht introduced an LEZ also for cars in January 2015. Amsterdam has plans to step up with vans older than 15 years (Euro 2) by 2017. That is very late compared to other cities in Europe and also in the Netherlands.

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In the last few years, a combined Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and congestion charge has been implemented in the ‘Area C’, a regional collaboration with the city, which is in charge of enforcement. On a trial phase in 2012 and permanent since 2013, Area C covers about 8 km² in the historic city centre. Area C restricts the most pollutant vehicles (petrol Euro 0 and diesel Euro 3) as well as lorries longer than 7.5 metres. From 2017, Euro 4 diesel vehicles without particulate filters will also be forbidden to enter Area C. However, restrictions are only in operation on workdays during the day and the increase to Euro 4 in 2017 will not apply to residents’ and utility vehicles or buses. Area C is controlled through surveillance cameras at its 43 access points. During the first year, the implementation of Area C resulted in a 30% reduction of traffic accesses, which translated to 40,000 fewer vehicles entering the area every day. However, traffic since then has increased again, partly due to the free access to car sharing and other vehicles, as well as changed parking regulations within the area. Also, there are doubts about the efficacy of enforcement of the LEZ. Nevertheless, a public referendum held in 2011 showed that the Milanese population supported an enlargement of the zone. The city, however, with target year of 2022, has a very timid timeline for its extension.

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Capital of Spain

There is no real Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) in Madrid. There are however small parts of the inner city where access restrictions are applied to reduce traffic intensity, in which priority is given to residents (access for not resident vehicles is forbidden at different times of the day). There were discussions on a possible LEZ for the whole inner city of Madrid. However, on this measure nothing was decided except for the aforementioned traffic calming measures.

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Capital of Luxembourg

The City of Luxembourg does not have a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and no information could be retrieved that there are plans to introduce an LEZ. Nevertheless, in the City’s Air Quality Plan from 2011, access regulation measures for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) are considered for implementation before 2020. Accordingly, access of HGVs into the city centre is planned to be limited but no measures have yet been taken. An LEZ for HGVs was abandoned as the delivery vehicle fleet is generally modern and clean, and so an LEZ would not bring about substantial air quality improvements. Reduction measures should be taken to lower concentrations of NO2 especially, in order to conform to EU limit values.

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Capital of Belgium

After a study on effects of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Brussels, the Ministry decided not to introduce an LEZ on the basis of environmental performance criteria. However, in May 2013 Brussels adopted a “Zone d’Action Prioritaire pour l’Air” (Priority Air Action Zone) which allows the municipality to introduce temporary or permanent restrictions on mobility and transport and to use subsidies to promote air quality.

So far no restrictive measures have been launched using the “Code bruxellois de l’Air, du Climat et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie” (Bussels Code of Air, Climate and Energy Management). An integration of climate and air pollution policy is characteristic of the strategy on the national and city levels. But this provision has not been used so far.

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United Kingdom

The Glasgow City Centre Transport Strategy has finalised a feasibility study that investigated the potential for an LEZ in Glasgow and advised to investigate further measures. The City Council announced that by the 2014 Commonwealth Games there would be a trial LEZ. In 2014 however, the city postponed the implementation and waited for the draft Scottish Low Emission Strategy. That leaves Glasgow for the time being without any access restriction, apart from small measures like a not very extensive Statutory Quality Partnership, regulating bus emissions of contractors. These are not very tight, though, and will not deliver requisite reductions in emissions standards (20% of vehicles to meet Euro IV).

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The city of Barcelona does not have a Low Emission Zone. In the Ciutat Vella, the old city, there is a local traffic ban for non-residential vehicles at certain hours of the day. Also, for vehicles entering the area there is a speed limit of 10 km/h and a weight limit of 5.5 tonnes.

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