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Low emission zones: Postponed is not abandoned

Many rule tightenings in the European low emission zones will not take place this year as planned. The Corona pandemic has shifted the political focus to other matters. Moreover, the limit values were complied with in many places. After the pandemic, however, the introduction of stricter rules will probably hit European motorists with full force.

Many European governments have put the implementation of new rules in environmental zones on the back burner. With many businesses and citizens struggling for their livelihoods in the Corona pandemic, the planned rule tightening is likely to be unacceptable to many people and would only plunge governments into further ill will.  In addition, due to the reduction in traffic and economic production, but also because of favourable weather conditions, air quality in many places has been better than in previous years. This is already causing many opponents of environmental zones to burst into euphoria. But there is much to suggest that air pollutants will skyrocket after the pandemic and that the postponed tightening of regulations will have to be introduced as soon as possible.

Where are regulations being postponed?

In France and Great Britain in particular, but also in the Netherlands, many new environmental zones or tighter regulations for existing environmental zones were planned for 2021.

In France, seven cities were obliged by the Ministry of the Environment to introduce permanent environmental zones in 2020. As previously reported in our newsletter, this concerned the metropolitan areas of the cities of Marseille, Nice, Toulon, Toulouse, Montpellier, Strasbourg and Rouen. The ministry has granted these cities a reprieve because of the pandemic. They now have until the end of 2021 to put the plans into action.  For some of the cities, it is not yet clear when exactly the zones will come into force. In Toulouse, it will probably be at the beginning of April or May. Then trucks with category 5 stickers and trucks without stickers will be banned. In Rouen, vehicles with category 4 and 5 stickers and those without stickers will be barred from the inner ring road from July. In Strasbourg, old vehicles will probably not be allowed to enter until the beginning of January 2022. Here, as in Toulouse, the ban will initially only apply to vehicles with category 5 stickers and those without stickers, but will affect all types of vehicles. In Lille, a permanent environmental zone was to be introduced at the beginning of this year. Now it will also not come into force until the beginning of next year. The French capital is also taking a little longer with the tightening of the rules than originally planned. The category 4 sticker was actually supposed to be banned within the A86 from January 2021. This will now probably be the case from June. In France, only Lyon is still on schedule. Here, N1-N3 vehicles with category 3 stickers and worse have no longer been allowed since January 2021. However, there are still exceptions, at least for commercial vehicles. The extension of the zone and the tightening of the rules in the coming years are to be discussed in the coming months.

In Britain's capital, a tightening of the rules will come into force for trucks and buses from March 2021. Then only vehicles with Euro 6 standards will be allowed to enter. The regulation, which was supposed to hit London as early as October 2020, has thus been postponed by four months. In Bath, too, heavy vehicles were to be subject to stricter rules as early as November 2020. Now the start of the environmental zone has been moved to 15 March. Commercial diesel vehicles up to and including Euro 5 and petrol vehicles up to and including Euro 3 will then have to pay a daily fee to enter the environmental zone. Private vehicles are not affected. In Birmingham, the environmental zone was to be introduced in the summer of 2020. A new date has not yet been set. However, according to the transport minister, the low emission zone is to be launched as soon as possible. In Leeds, the authorities are even going so far as not to want to introduce the low emission zone, as air values have improved significantly in the last year. However, this could prove to be a fallacy due to the Corona pandemic, so that an environmental zone could be introduced after all.

In the Netherlands, at least the city of Utrecht has also postponed the introduction of stricter rules for the low emission zone by two months. Originally, diesel cars and vans were only to be allowed in from Euro 4 in February 2021. This is now only planned from April 2021.

To find out if you are affected by the upcoming tighter regulations, download our free Green-Zones app. This way, you'll always be well informed about all the changes.