regulated access in the United Kingdom and Sweden, a vote in Paris

This Sunday, the city of Paris organized a referendum on the taxation of the largest cars in the city center. Similar measures have already been adopted in London and Stockholm, our correspondents detail them for us.

Article written by

France Info – Carlotta Morteo and Sara Menaï

Radio France


Reading time: 6 min

An ultra-low emissions zone bans the most polluting vehicles from downtown London, United Kingdom, July 22, 2023. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

While Parisians voted on Sunday February 4 to triple parking prices for the most polluting cars in the city center, several of our European neighbors have already adopted similar measures. In the United Kingdom, a very low emissions zone, banning the most polluting vehicles from downtown London, has been in force since 2015. Moreover, many tourists passing through the British capital receive fines.

For its part, Sweden is the first city in the world to ban thermal cars from driving in the city center of the capital. This measure will come into force in Stockholm on December 31, 2024. The country has moved ahead in its transport decarbonization objectives.

London: the mayor wants to expand the very low emissions zone

Since 2015, London City Hall has demarcated a very low emissions zone: the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). It is an area of ​​the British capital where the most polluting drivers must pay a daily fee to be able to drive in the capital. The ULEZ currently covers the whole of central London and requires drivers to meet strict standards, encouraging Londoners and businesses to switch from highly polluting vehicles to cleaner modes of transport.

At the time, the measure was not very well received. But it is above all the project to extend this area, by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, which has caused people to cringe in recent months. Restricted to the center of the capital when it was introduced, the zone will be extended to the whole of Greater London, an area of ​​1,500 km2 with 9 million inhabitants. An online petition gathered 257,000 signatures and Londoners took to the streets. “You know, I’ve never protested in my life, but this The town hall’s decision makes me so angry.”explained a demonstrator.

Tourists who drive through central London with highly polluting vehicles are not always aware of local laws and are surprised to receive fines on their way home. London is the most surveillance city in the world. In the United Kingdom, over the past 30 years, nearly 6 million video surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the British territory and, in particular, on red lights in low-emission zones.

320,000 fines issued to EU residents

However, since Brexit, the United Kingdom has been banned from automatically accessing the personal data of European Union residents and therefore foreign drivers should not receive fines. Hundreds of thousands of EU citizens have been wrongly fined for driving in this ULEZ in London, governments say.

The City of London has been accused by five European countries of illegally obtaining the names and addresses of their citizens in order to issue more than 320,000 fines since 2021. Among these countries, Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. In France, more than 100 drivers have taken legal action, claiming their data was obtained fraudulently. The scandal has been described, by some, as possibly one of the biggest data breaches in the history of the European Union.

The Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson for transport in the Assembly called last week for an immediate investigation, arguing that this data problem and the taxation of foreign drivers could simply damage the reputation of opening of the British capital to visitors. London has nearly 20 million international visitors per year, 10% of whom arrive via the Shuttle, the tunnel under the Channel which transports passengers and their vehicles.

Sweden: improving air quality and reducing noise

In Sweden, thermal vehicles will be banned from downtown Stockholm at the end of 2024. This zone only concerns the densest part of the capital, around the station. A perimeter, delimited by four streets, which includes around twenty blocks, as well as the Klara tunnel, a large underground artery 850 meters long which allows you to cross the hypercenter from North to South.

The perimeter is not very large, but it should improve air quality significantly. A study by Karolinska Institutet showed that children growing up on central streets have lower respiratory functions from the age of six months, compared to those who live further away. It is this aspect of public health that is highlighted by the municipality.

So from 2025, only electric vehicles will be able to cross Stockholm via the city center. This measure is also supposed to reduce noise, a determining factor for the municipality. It is currently prohibited to make deliveries at night in Stockholm, to preserve peace. So if the electric trucks are quieter, the city plans that shops and offices in this business district could be delivered when residents are sleeping, which should help relieve congestion in the area during the day.

Sweden often acts as a good student, the country has moved ahead in its transport decarbonization objectives. The country, for example, introduced a carbon tax in 1991 which is by far the highest in the world. Sweden has also banned the marketing of new thermal vehicles from 2030. Swedes who own a polluting and old car pay more taxes. And yet, the number of diesel cars has exploded in 15 years and today represents more than 35% of the vehicle fleet, compared to 8% in 2007.

Biofuel called into question

The number of diesel cars has exploded in 15 years and today represents more than 35% of the vehicle fleet, compared to 8% in 2007. This increase can be explained by the fact that it is a more environmental option than diesel, because the Swedish diesel mix contains on average 30.5% biofuel. And it is this share of biofuels in the transport sector that has made it possible to reduce the country’s total CO2 emissions by around 7% each year.

The problem is that this biodiesel emits as much, or even more, nitrogen oxides which cause respiratory irritation, which justifies the ban on diesels in Stockholm. However, the right-wing government, which came to power last year, decided to lower taxes on diesel and above all to reduce the share of biofuels in the mix to satisfy motorists who found the price at the pump too expensive.

Sweden has therefore aligned itself this year with EU regulations, which provide for 6% biofuels in the diesel mix, five times less than that in force in Sweden. This measure alone undermines the country’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 70% by 2030 in the transport sector. The country could therefore lose the lead it has taken.

source site-29