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Paris: Driving bans are not enough

The highest French court has sentenced France to a fine of millions. Air pollution in Paris and Lyon is too high. Despite the many measures around reducing traffic and tightening the rules in the environmental zones, the air is still enormously dirty and harmful to health.

10 million euros must be paid by the government to environmental associations. The Council of State already warned the government a year ago that air pollution was too high and more measures urgently needed to be taken to protect citizens.

Although Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is already cracking down on traffic, measures in the metropolis are not enough. Despite the introduction of car-free zones, the expansion of cycle paths and the introduction of car-free Sundays once a month, there are still 15 million car journeys a day into the densely populated city.

The punishment was therefore foreseeable for Paris. A few years ago, the EU had already sued France for high air pollution. It is also conceivable that, in addition to Paris and Lyon, cities such as Marseille, Nice and Bordeaux will also be condemned. There, air pollution is similarly dangerous, but the cities remained just below the limits in the first half of this year, probably also because of reduced mobility due to the Corona pandemic.

In the next few years, Paris has planned a strict tightening of the rules in the environmental zones. Currently, the category 4 sticker is already banned. From July 2022, sticker 3 will also be banned. In January 2024, sticker 2 will be added. This means a de facto ban on diesel vehicles in the low emission zone. This is also urgently needed, because there are still many old diesel vehicles in Paris. The government has promoted diesel for years. The vehicles received tax relief and the fuel was cheap. This was also in the interest of the French car lobby.

Another problem is public transport. The suburbs remain poorly connected, so many commuters rely on cars. So the problem of Parisian air pollution does not only arise in the low-emission zone itself, but already starts with the lack of local transport and alternatives to the car in the areas around Paris.

So Hidalgo still has a long way to go. The expansion of public transport, even more car-free zones and actions such as Car Free Sunday could improve the situation, but whether they will actually be enough remains to be seen. If this is not the case by 2024, the air quality should improve at the latest when diesels are completely banned from the capital.

You can find the current rules of the Paris Low Emission Zones and all stricter regulations in the Green Zones app.