Quantifying the impact of low and zero-emission zones in six European cities

May 17, 2023

Air quality modelling shows significant air pollution cuts are possible thanks to low and zero-emission zones.

New research commissioned by the Clean Cities Campaign and Transport & Environment shows low- and zero-emission zones can significantly reduce air pollution levels. Even at the most polluted traffic hotspots in cities, the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for nitrogen dioxide pollution are within reach if zero-emission zones are introduced by 2030. This is before considering additional reductions through other policies or from other sources.

These findings should inform the ongoing revision of the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive and prompt the EU to set science-based legal limits and accelerate the roll-out of zero-emission transport in Europe.

The main findings of the research are:

  • More stringent low-emission zones can curb NO2 pollution from local roads by between 36% (Milan) to 45% (Madrid) at traffic hotpots by 2027. This brings total concentrations (roadside plus other sources) at most city hotpots down to as low as 25.8 µg/m³, much closer to the 20 µg/m³ target that the European Commission proposed only for 2030.
  • In 2030, zero-emission zones can almost eliminate NO2 emissions from local roads, leaving only the contribution from other sources. Reductions range from 91% (Milan) to 95% (Paris, Brussels). Total NO2 levels of 13.6 µg/m3 (Brussels) to 23 µg/m3 (Milan and Warsaw) can be achieved.
  • The modelling contains several worst-case assumptions, and in particular does not allow for any significant ambition in targeting the remaining non-transport emissions. This means that the future-year predictions are likely to be conservative and that lower concentrations than predicted here are highly achievable with additional and combined efforts to tackle other pollution sources.

Download the study and factsheet to find out more.

Related Articles

View All