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Austria: Stricter environmental zones for all trucks and cars

Austria's current climate plan will not be enough to meet the EU targets by 2030 and thus reduce CO2 emissions by 7 percent. Now it is being discussed whether the rules of the environmental zones should be tightened. Then, for example, only trucks with a registration from 2020 would be allowed in Tyrol. But that will not be enough to combat air pollution. One solution would be to extend the rules to other vehicle classes such as passenger cars.

Tyrol suffers particularly from the traffic between Italy and Germany. Especially during the holiday season, the province struggles with through traffic and delivery traffic and thus with air pollution. One measure to cope with the situation is the so-called sectoral driving ban, which only allows trucks with a permissible total weight of more than 7.5 tonnes if they comply with exhaust class Euro 6. The loaded goods are also taken into account: Only certain goods such as livestock, perishable food or hazardous goods may be transported. Now the rules are to be tightened as early as summer 2022 and only trucks that were first registered in 2020 will be allowed to drive.

Another measure to curb traffic is the so-called departure ban. In the event of a traffic jam, cars and trucks will then not be able to leave the motorway from 7 a.m. on Saturday until 7 p.m. on Sunday in order to avoid the jam. This is to prevent pure through traffic from spreading to the entire road network in Tyrol, as these evasive manoeuvres lead to massive congestion on the road network in the province. There are also special rules for Tyrolean vehicles in night-time traffic, which Professor Peter Hilpold from the University of Innsbruck criticises. While foreign trucks are denied night-time transport through Tyrol, Tyrolean companies can continue to deliver. This discriminates against competitors and violates current EU law.

But all the special rules and temporary driving bans will not be of much use. At least that is how Sigrid Stagl, an environmental economist at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, sees it. The air quality has demonstrably not improved and it is to be expected that traffic will increase rather than decrease. She therefore calls for even more driving bans, for all classes of vehicles, because otherwise the goal of meeting the EU requirements by 2030 cannot be achieved. With the measures currently planned, CO2 emissions could not be reduced and we would be lucky if they did not increase. Planned tax incentives to switch to an electric vehicle are good, but their effect is difficult to predict and too slow, Stagl said. To reduce pollutant emissions, restricting access to inner cities for old diesel and petrol vehicles is often the only effective method. Stagl assumes that such measures have more effect than financial aid for buying a more environmentally friendly car.

Currently, only trucks and vans are affected by the driving bans in the environmental zones, and even these are still allowed to enter almost all zones if they show Euronorm 3 and have a corresponding environmental sticker. In international comparison, the rules of the environmental zones are a joke and hardly contribute to less traffic and better air.

In plain language, this means that the only solution for less air pollution in Austria is even more environmental zones that include not only lorries but also passenger cars. However, it is not yet clear when this will happen and which Euro standards will be banned.

As always, we will keep you up to date on our website and in the Green-Zones app.