A low-emission zone trafic sign, Source: Depositphotos

Ahead of generalization, French society opposes low-emission zones in cities

Ahead of generalization, French society opposes low-emission zones in cities

But also, 60% of the people in the country do not know what a ‘low-emission zone’ is

According to the Climate and Resilience Law of 2021, all French urban agglomerations of more than 150,000 residents must introduce and standardize low-emission mobility zones (ZFE-m) on their territories by 2025. In fact, 11 metropolises in the country have already established such zones, known in French as zones à faibles émissions, where the most polluting vehicles can be subjected to traffic restrictions.

Currently, these restrictions are decided by the local administration and may apply over specific periods, such as pollution peaks. The vehicles are identified by special Crit’Air stickers grouping them into different categories according to their pollution factor.

It turns out, however, that overall, the French public isn’t too excited about the legislative push to eliminate such vehicles from the cities through regulations. A recent survey, conducted by the French Senate’s Regional Planning and Sustainable Development Commission, found that 86% of the citizenry were against the introduction of ZFE-m’s, and so were 79% of the companies.

Can environmental justice lead to social injustice?

In general, no majority in a societal group is supporting the measure, with the exception of habitual public transit users. 67% of that group, specifically the commuters who have access to several modes of public mobility (buses, metro, trains, trams, etc) supported the implementation of ZFE-m’s, but everyone else seems to be decrying it.

And there are different reasons for it, with the main themes being that it would deepen social inequalities and lead to chaos and confusion. Here are the five main obstacles expressed by the public:

  • the excessive cost of acquiring clean vehicles (for 77% of individuals and 58% of businesses);
  • insufficient accessibility to the metropolis from the peri-urban or rural outskirts (51% of individuals);
  • too rapid generalization of traffic restrictions (47% of individuals and 36% of businesses);
  • the lack of clarity of the Crit'air system (47% of individuals and 29% of businesses);
  • the lack of alternative means of transport to the individual vehicle (42% of individuals).

97% of the surveyed own a motor vehicle, but 83% of them do not plan to replace it with the implementation of ZFE-m. However, due to the Crit'air sticker, 42% could eventually be refused access to the city's central areas, which could be a recipe for unrest in a freedom-loving society like the French.

However, to add another dimension to the issue, stats showed that 60% of the people do not know what a “ZFE-m” is, so that also brings up the question of whether the disapproval is based on insight or ignorance.



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