Child crossing the road in Brussels, Source: Benedicte Maindiaux via Environnement Brussels

Low Emissions Zone is making Brussels a healthier city

Low Emissions Zone is making Brussels a healthier city

An assessment report on the effectiveness of Low Emission Zones between 2018 and 2020 found a sustained and significant reduction in emissions in the city

On Monday, the environment and energy administration in the Brussels-Capital region published the results of an assessment report on the effects of the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) on the city’s air quality and the types of vehicles citizens prefer to operate.

Researchers link the zones to sustained improvements in the air quality, especially when it comes to pollutants like nitrogen, soot and fine dust particles, detrimental to physical and mental health. Furthermore, the zones prove an effective tool for reshaping the car habits of private citizens, promoting the usage of more efficient vehicles.

Fewer and fewer cars on the streets

In January 2018, the local government in the Belgian capital decided to take bold action to clean up the air by instituting a Low Emissions Zone across the whole city. The zone makes use of the European standards on vehicle pollution, thus vehicles under the Euro 4 standard faced some restrictions.

Euro 3 cars, for instance, have been completely banned since January 2020. This measure was able to curb the number of vehicles while promoting the use of public transportation as a more cost-effective option for citizens

Now, the local government is getting ready to up the restrictions from January 2022 by banning diesel vehicles under Euro standard 4 altogether. At the same time, in 2030 no diesel engines will be allowed in the low emissions zone.

Policy against pollution

The strategy of targeted reduction of polluting vehicles seems to be paying off. According to the report, in 2020 harmful soot pollution was 38% lower compared to 2018 levels. Researchers also note a 9% drop in nitrogen oxide. Soot and nitrogen pollution are linked to respiratory and heart problems and they are also associated with mental health issues.   

Another important consequence of the low emissions zone is the reduction of heavy-pollution vehicles. In 2018, 62% of all cars in Brussels were running on diesel, while this number has dropped to less than half in 2020. Hybrid vehicles are on the rise, filling the gap. The number of electric cars, though, is currently still negligible.



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