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The Spanish government must make low emission zones big enough to stop pollution shifting to other parts of cities

Madrid, 28 June 2021 – Low Emissions Zones need to be big enough to stop car and truck pollution being shifted to other parts of cities, three environmental organisations have warned the Spanish government. The LEZ must cover a sufficient area to cause a switch to less polluting forms of transport such as zero-emission vehicles, public transport, cycling and walking – and not simply transfer high-emitting transport to other areas, they said.

The organisations Transport & Environment (T&E), ECODES and Fundación Renovables* have drawn up a “Proposal for minimum standards for the regulation of Low Emission Zones” to ensure their effective functioning in the reduction of CO2 and air pollution, as well as their implementation with homogeneous criteria in cities. This document has been sent to the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITERD), the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (MITMA) and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP).

The implementation of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) is a crucial measure for the fulfilment of the objective of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC) to reduce 27 million tonnes of CO2 in the transport-mobility sector by 2030.

Consequently, the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition has introduced in its Article 14 “Promotion of emission-free mobility” the obligation to establish LEZs in municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants before 2023 (a total of 149, according to 2020 data from the National Statistics Office -INE-, which account for 53.1% of the total population of Spain). The fundamental mission of the LZEs is to limit access to cities to the most polluting and CO2 emitting vehicles.

“To ensure that this objective of the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition is met and, therefore, that the ZBEs serve effectively as a key tool in the reduction of CO2 emissions and air pollution caused by transport in cities, it is necessary to define homogeneous criteria for their implementation,” say these NGOs.

Firstly, for the LEZs to be effective in the fight against climate change, they must be of sufficient size to cause a shift from polluting mobility to more sustainable modes (whether zero-emission vehicles, public transport or other forms of active mobility), not a rebound effect that simply transfers emissions to another area of the city. In this sense, LEZs should be defined with the objective of reducing emissions throughout the city, and not only in the affected area.

It is necessary to unify criteria for the type of vehicles that can access these zones. As a proposal, and in accordance with the objectives committed by Spain in its Strategic Framework for Energy and Climate, as well as those of the European Union, these zones should only allow access to private and commercial vehicles that are zero-emission or low-emission – not exceeding 95 g CO2/km (WLTP). To this end, it is necessary to incorporate a CO2 emissions threshold in the system of environmental vehicle badges (the so-called “DGT stickers”).

The document makes a number of proposals for the LEZs to work effectively in relation to:

  • last mile freight transport;
  • public transport services, including shared mobility companies;
  • electric charging infrastructure
  • the regulation of surface parking for private vehicles that can access the LEZs
  • other urban regeneration measures related to the promotion of active mobility (pedestrianisation, cycling infrastructure network, green zones, etc.)
  • mechanisms for monitoring compliance with the established access criteria.

A first debate on this document took place last Friday 18 June at the conference “Objective 2023: Low Emission Zones for sustainable mobility and CO2 reduction in cities“, organised by the three organisations mentioned above. The event was opened by Valvanera Ulargui, Director General of the Spanish Climate Change Office of MITERD. Speakers at the subsequent round table included Ángeles Marín, Director of the MITMA Mobility Strategy Office; Marta Muñoz, Deputy Director General of Clean Air and Industrial Sustainability of MITERD; Luis Ángel Velez, Councillor General Delegate for Mobility and Urban Space of Valladolid City Council; David Bartolome, President of the Shared Vehicle Association of Spain; Manel Ferri, President of the Association for the Promotion of Public Transport (PTP); Laura Vergara, General Coordinator of the Coordinadora en Defensa de la Bici and Elena Fernández, Deputy Director of International Relations and Sustainability of Correos. FEMP was also invited but declined to participate in the event.

The original press release in Spanish by Transport & Environment (T&E), ECODES and Fundación Renovables is available at this link.


Carlos Bravo
Transport & Environment
+34 626 998 241

Cristian Quílez
+34 699 664 950

Raquel Paule
Fundación Renovables
+34 699 10 47 55

**T&E, ECODES and Fundación Renovables are partners of the Clean Cities Campaign

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