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Stockholm: beyond ULEZ

The Swedish city of Stockholm has announced that from 2025 diesel and petrol cars will be banned from the city centre. The zone covers over 45 acres and some 20 blocks, encompassing the city’s finance and main shopping districts.

Only plug-in hybrid vans and vehicles driven by physically impaired drivers, police and emergency workers will be exempt. If any non-conforming vehicles stray into the zone, they will attract a minimum fine of 1,000 Swedish krona (£75).

“It is more ‘ultra’ than the ultra-low emission zone of London”, Lars Strömgren, the city’s vice-mayor for transport told Air Quality News.

The aim of Stockholm’s new zone is to reduce the levels of nitrogen oxide pollution, which in some parts of Stockholm is twice that recommended by the World Health Organisation. “We have chosen an area where large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are exposed to unhealthy air on a daily basis,” said Strömgren.

Meanwhile, between 30 and 40 cities in the Netherlands have opted to introduce zero emission zones (ZEZ) for logistics from 2025. All new delivery vans and lorries registered from 1 January 2025 must be zero emission if they are to enter the zones. Private vehicles will be exempt until 2030.

The Netherlands already has low emission zones, but the introduction of the ZEZs aims to encourage owners of delivery vans and lorries to switch to cleaner vehicles. The Government has been offering grants to businesses to help them buy or lease electric vehicles.

Germany pioneered the LEZ concept with its Umweltzones, the first of which were established in Berlin, Cologne and Hannover in early 2008. German law requires that every car has a colour-coded emissions sticker, with most cities only allowing vehicles with green stickers to enter the designated zone. There are Unmeltzones in many cities and the government has been gradually ramping up requirements.

London’s original ULEZ came into play in 2019. The UK currently has 13 low emission or clean air zones with a variety of charging scenarios. In Scotland, the four LEZs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen will fine any drivers with non-compliant vehicles, rather than allowing them to pay a daily fee. Only Glasgow’s is enforced so far.

According to research by Peugeot, the UK’s low emission zones have collectively generated over £418m since March 2021. London’s ULEZ generated a large proportion of this, £320m, between October 2021 when the zone was extended and April 2023 – all of which must be reinvested into London’s transport network by law.

One of the biggest challenges for any city introducing a LEZ is ensuring that the changes don’t disadvantage certain groups of people. As we saw in Uxbridge, where opposition to the extension of the London ULEZ fuelled the Conservative candidate to surprise victory in the local election, getting the social elements of such a scheme wrong can cause problems.

This could even happen among the environmentally conscious Swedes, especially since Stockholm’s plans from the city’s governing Green party go against the grain of the national government, run by a Conservative coalition which has been pulling back on some of the ambitious environmental strategies and policies of its predecessor. According to some commentators, that could mean that there could be a backlash against Stockholm’s scheme to ban petrol and diesel cars.


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