Low-emission zone

An environmental zone (English Low Emission Zone ( LEZ ), German: Low - emission area ) is a geographically defined area - mostly in urban areas, which only allows access from specific, identified as low-emission vehicles and aiming at improving the air quality. In addition, there is the concept of zero-emission zone ( NEZ ) (English Zero - Emission Zone ( ZEZ ) ), in which, for example, only electric vehicles are allowed. Approaches to zero emissions can be found in city construction project Masdar in the United Arab Emirates.


The towns and cities in eleven countries across Europe have set up more than 300 environmental zones or prepare them to meet the applicable limits for air quality (see also Clean Air Plan and the European Directives 96/62/EC, 1999/30/EC and 2008 / 50/EG ). Most environmental zones include the part of a city or concern particularly exposed road sections.


Legal bases in Germany are the regulation to adopt and amend rules on the identification of low-emission vehicles and the road traffic regulations ( Highway Code ). According to § 41 Highway Code for this new regulatory signs with the number 270.1 (start of a traffic ban to reduce harmful air pollution in a zone ) in the official traffic signs Catalog ( VzKat ) was added. The previous mark 270 ( traffic ban in smog) was replaced by the new character 270.1 and 270.2, indicating the beginning and end of a low emission zone. Here a driving ban applies to all motor vehicles, unless certain exemption criteria are met. The sign 270.1 may be supplemented by an additional sign that exempts vehicles with a correspondingly displayed plaque from the ban.

Environmental zones have been introduced in Germany in 47 cities and regions in 11 states. The largest environmental zone is in the Ruhr; it is a connected region with shares of 13 cities. Another several cities comprehensive environmental zone is located in Ludwigsburg and the surrounding area in Baden-Württemberg. The first environmental zones were created on 1 January 2008 in Hannover and Cologne. After the introduction of an environmental zone, the permissible Plaque areas are tightened gradually in most regions, the yellow badge was in the Cologne area from 1 January 2013 necessary and from 1 July 2014, the green needed.

The largest city without an environmental zone is Hamburg. No environmental zones there are in the states of Schleswig -Holstein, Hamburg, Saarland, Mecklenburg -Western Pomerania and Brandenburg.

See Overview of the environmental zones in Germany


In many cities of Italy low emission zones. In contrast to the German environmental zones bans for two-wheelers with two-stroke engine exist.


In many cities of the Netherlands environmental zones have been established. The restrictions are there but only for trucks. The vehicles are not marked as such in Germany with a plaque, but the pollutant group can be found on the official vehicle registration number.


In the cities of Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Lund, Malmö, Mölndal and Stockholm emission zones. These look restrictions except for trucks and buses over 3.5 before t.

United Kingdom

The British capital London has established with effect from February 4, 2008 an environmental zone for almost the whole of Greater London and has the largest such area in the world. The only exception is the ring motorway M 25, which leads to a stretch on the east side by the area. Until January 3, 2012 gradually stricter rules were introduced. But affects no cars and motorbikes, but small transport vehicles, buses and trucks. Before the zone with one of these vehicles is traversed, it must first be registered. If the vehicle meets the emissions standards do not, is a daily fee to pay. Unregistered vehicles risking a fine.

In the eastern English city of Norwich an environmental zone was established on 30 July 2008. The conditions were negotiated between the capital of the County of Norfolk and the surrounding area. As of April 1, 2010 are allowed to drive only with Euro 3 buses bus company based in Norwich, with all other bus companies 50 % of the vehicles have to meet the Euro 3 standard, if they want to drive in the environmental zone.

Discussion in Germany

The topic is heavily discussed in public, there are a number of supporters and opponents. Some of the arguments are also contradictory: while is accused of one side of the automotive industry to have taken effect on the regulation in order to boost the sales and to secure jobs, the automotive industry defends against the regulation, since vehicles with higher environmental standards to be difficult to sell.

The abolition of the environmental zones is required by any local citizenship fractions, but also in the CDU There do locally different attitudes.

One criticism is that levels of particulate matter by mass and are not substance specific. Exceedances of the particulate limits would regularly go back to the long-distance transport of particles. A limit for soot particles do not exist, however.

The classification of vehicles is based on the unrealistic New European Driving Cycle (NEDC)

The health effects of particulate matter are discussed in the topic.

Environmental zones to reduce particulate pollution in places where it is particularly high locally. According to the Advisory Council on the Environment is the main cause of the pollution with nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in urban areas continues to be the road. Environmental zones were among local, traffic-related measures, the greatest reduction potential in PM10 and NO2 emissions.

For the Green Zone Munich, a study of the Helmholtz Zentrum München based on the PM10 values ​​from October 2008 to January 2009 compared to the previous year found an increase in particulate pollution at the two measurement locations near traffic. This lead the authors attributed to temperature inversions with low wind speed, which is almost twice as often occurred in winter 2008/2009 as in the same period last year ( 300/560 hours over 4 months). By comparison with a measuring station on the outskirts of Munich, which determines mainly the background exposure was calculated directly at heavily polluted sites and routes to Prinzregentenstraße using appropriate assumptions lead to a local reduction of particulate emissions by about 10 %. A further evaluation of the same Munich measurement data, which was co-financed by the founded by automotive manufacturers and suppliers European Research Association for Environment and Health in the transport sector, criticized the evaluation of this work have failed and came up with another approach in 2013 to the conclusion " that there is no effect the environmental zone can be statistically verified on the concentration of dust. "

According to a report by Joachim Lorenz, the Department of Health and Environment of the City of Munich, the environmental zone acts postitiv impact on the air quality in the city. Due to the effects of weather conditions and other nuisance parameter a reliable quantification of the effects was not possible.

According to the Berlin Senator for the Environment Katrin Lompscher was in Berlin by the environmental zone in 2008 along main roads, the concentration of particulate matter by about 3% and nitrogen dioxide dropped by about 10 % over the previous year. The Dieselrußausstoß of road traffic has declined by 28%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 18%, the stock of vehicles without a sticker for cars by 58 % and commercial vehicles by 29%. Based on the air quality monitoring data, a decline caused by traffic soot particles by 14% to 22 % that achieved. According to the ADAC be with the concentration of particulate matter in Berlin in comparison of 2008 and 2007, depending on the station, a decrease of up to 4.7 % and an increase of up to 5 % have been recorded.

The ADAC criticized that environmental zones have brought nothing according to his measurements, and also official agencies could still register for any city an appreciable reduction in particulate matter and NO2. In some regions the fine particle pollution is even increased. Environmental zones have brought high administrative burden on municipalities and existential disadvantages for many drivers. Tightening did not present appreciable effects, as few cars have a yellow or red sticker. Because of technical progress take the pollution for years from even without environmental zones. A targeted promotion of alternative drive systems, public transport services, green waves and cycling bring considerably more than environmental zones. An investigation of the association in 2009 have shown that an improvement in air quality is demonstrably not occurred and lie within the measurement accuracy. He compared the change in the annual mean values ​​of 2007 and 2008 particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide ( NO2) in cities with environmental zone with nearby towns without environmental zone.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI looks, after an investigation of the environmental zone Ulm on behalf of the local industry and commerce, a trade-off between the formed the focus of Regulation particulate pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions. The reduction in PM levels would be accompanied by increasing nitrogen levels. Only with the Euro 6 standard was to be expected, a reduction of nitrogen dioxide values. Other measures, in particular a liquid flow of traffic, would have a much greater impact on nitrogen dioxide emissions.

For an EU-wide emission zone speak loudly to the European Environment Agency that - including the territories without limit exceeded - in the EU-wide average house fire 27% of the road 11% of the PM2.5 emissions and PM10 emissions the house fire and 19% of the road transport under 9 % share have.

Wegener Wolf, former chairman of ADAC Brandenburg, criticized ban zones would interrupt the continuance. It would involve a "cold expropriation of motorists ." With the introduction of the first " green" environmental zones in Berlin and Hannover 2010 would exclude vehicles whose type approval was still allowed in 2005.

The environmental zone caused by the loss in value of non-compliant vehicles and the administrative burden substantial economic costs. The total cost of the introduction of environmental zones was estimated by the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg -Essen to 12.1 billion euros in 2009. Here, the administrative expenses of 10.6 million euros and the plaques were estimated at 79 million euros as primary costs. The remaining 11.9 billion euros are called secondary costs, this amount includes the value of the losses is not convertible vehicles.