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Temporary Low Emission Zones in France explained

In France there are both permanent and temporary environmental zones. The temporary zones are only activated when pollution levels are particularly high. They are called air protection zones (Zones de Protection de L'Air = ZPA). As with permanent zones, you have to stick the appropriate sticker on your windscreen for temporary zones. When temporary zones are activated, the rules of "differentiated traffic" come into force, in French "circulation différenciée".

These environmental zones are activated when there is heavy air pollution, as often occurs on windless days in winter. With so-called winter smog, the exhaust gases collect near their source. A layer of warm air then lies above this cold layer near the ground, so that the lower layer cannot escape and pollutants are collected there. In summer, on the other hand, extreme solar radiation can promote harmful ozone. Natural effects such as the drifting of Saharan dust or salty sea spray blown inland can also cause increased concentrations of particulate matter. Temporary environmental zones allow French authorities to respond quickly to harmful air quality and protect citizens by banning certain older vehicles.

Before these zones are activated, elevated pollution levels must be measured for three days. Only then can the prefect of the department or the mayor of a city consider declaring differentiated traffic. In such a case, vehicles with a certain sticker are no longer allowed to drive: in the city and conurbation or in the whole department. Which stickers are allowed is determined in advance. In most cases, vehicles without a French sticker or with a sticker 4 or 5 are banned. It is therefore advisable to obtain the correct sticker in advance, as you will unfortunately have to abandon your vehicle if you do not want to risk any penalties. If the pollution period lasts longer, the responsible authorities can even ban vehicles with sticker 3. Usually, the activation is announced via the radio and social media. If you don't know beforehand that there have been advance warnings, you can be quite surprised by the activation.

With 32 temporary and six fixed environmental zones, it is also easy to lose track of the situation in France. In this case, our Green Zones app helps. On the one hand, you always know whether you are currently in an environmental zone, and on the other hand, the app shows you from the first day where there are advance warnings and consequently where the temporary environmental zone could also be activated. This way, you always know where driving restrictions may be imminent.