The permanently valid Madrid Central environmental zone is cancelled due to formal deficiencies. The zone had reduced air pollution by 22%. The city is now threatened with a fine from Brussels if it cannot reduce air pollution otherwise.
Madrid's environmental zone had been in force since 2018. In July 2020, the court had already ruled that the environmental zone had to be lifted, among other things because no proper public information process had taken place before the introduction of the zone and the costs of around 11.7 million euros had not been properly processed in the city's budget. At the time, the environmental association Ecologistas en Acciónn had appealed. Now the appeal has been dismissed.
The Madrid city council now has two months to enforce the ruling. Until then, according to the acting mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida (PP), the environmental zone should remain in force. He therefore called on all citizens to behave as if the zone were still active. Fines should also continue to be imposed. However, the lawyer of Ecologistas en Acciónn, Jaime Doreste, said that such fines would hardly have to be paid after this ruling. Even fines imposed before the ruling could now be challenged before the law. The environmental association therefore sees little incentive for citizens to obey the rules and fears that old cars will now drive into the city centre again indefinitely.
The permanently valid environmental zone had reduced air pollution within the zone by 22%. In the entire city area, air quality had improved by 10%. The two environmental zones that continue to exist in Madrid are only temporary zones that can be activated in case of heavy air pollution.
In order to avoid a fine from the European Union for excessive air pollution, the "Madrid360" plan must now take effect quickly. Various measures, such as the establishment of different new environmental zones, but also the purchase of electric buses for public transport are part of this plan.
However, the abolition of the environmental zone is initially a bitter setback for the air quality and thus the health of Madrid's citizens. The "Madrid360" plan, although ambitious, will hardly be able to contribute to clean air quickly enough. After all, the example of Madrid will probably show in the coming months what the environmental zones bring - even if in a negative sense.