City bans are spreading in Europe

The present briefing provides an overview on the evolution of low-emissions zones for cars and vans in EU cities and analyses their effect on consumer behaviour on the basis of a representative survey commissioned by Transport & Environment. It finds that there is a steadily growing number of cities that introduce or tighten low-emission zones. There are currently more than 260 low-emission zones in 12 EU Member States, among which 250 concern passenger cars. The Dieselgate scandal has provided strong impetus to this movement amongst European cities, and there are now also several cities in Central and Eastern Europe that discuss adopting low-emission zones.

Secondly, the results of the survey show that consumers are turning away from diesel, with 69% saying that it is “not too likely” or “not at all likely” that their next car will be a diesel. Air quality concerns and the effect of city bans are cited as main reasons for these choices. Thirdly, the survey shows that low-emission zones are not unpopular at all. In fact, more than two thirds of consumers support city bans. These messages are encouraging for cities taking action for clean air: Their efforts are paying off and there is broad public support for effective measures.

In order to make these local measures effective, specific recommendations are given at the end of the briefing: Cities should be free to design their urban vehicle access restriction policies as they see fit the local circumstances, public health and environment, but should make use of remote sensing data rather than arbitrarily banning specific euro-classes. A comprehensive EU-wide programme is needed to clean up the 43 million of dirty diesel cars and vans on the road today, combining software and hardware fixes. The effectiveness of these fixes must be independently certified to ensure significant emission reductions are achieved in the real-world. In addition to coordinating measures at EU level, governments should take action to restrict the influx of dirty diesels. This is legally possible as a recent legal analysis commissioned by T&E found.