Air pollution forces Paris number plate ban

A peak in air pollution brought a drastic change to transport habits in Paris for one day, following a combination of unseasonably hot weather and diesel cars fumes. No strangers to air pollution regularly exceeding EU limits, the authorities in the French capital banned all cars with even-numbered licence plates from entering the city on 17 March due to exceptionally high levels. The idea was to ban odd-numbered plates the next day, but that proved unnecessary as a 25% reduction in traffic and cooler weather brought pollution levels down.

Nearly 4,000 drivers were fined for trying to take even-numbered cars into the city, 27 of them losing their car because of their reaction to the fines, while car-sharing and rental agencies reported increased demand for odd-numbered cars. Some observers blamed French car taxation, which favours diesel over petrol, for the increased levels of cancerous particulate matter. Air pollution, dubbed the 'invisible killer' by EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik, is a factor in more than 400,000 premature deaths every year.