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EU investigate the legality of Stockholm’s ban on petrol and diesel cars

As we reported in October of last year, Stockholm have announced that all petrol and diesel cars will be banned from the city centre from 31st December 2024.

Now, it appears, the European Union are suggesting this might not comply with their freedom of movement principle and are investigating the scheme.

Free movement is a cornerstone of the EU, but the City of Stockholm maintains that the low-emission zone is legal on the basis that restrictions can be allowed in order to protect the environment and public health. 

Lars Strömgren, Vice Mayor for Transport and Urban Environment of the City of Stockholm (pictured) said: ‘I’m a firm believer of a Europe where people can move freely across borders, but it is certainly not an EU right to pollute the air in Stockholm’s city centre.’

The proposed low-emission zone will only permit use of electric cars and gas cars that meet the Euro 6 emission standards. Euro 6 plug-in hybrid heavy vehicles will also be permitted. The zone will be constantly in effect and non-conformers can expect a fine of around €85. Motorcycles and mopeds are not covered by the ban.

The Environmental Zone Class 3 will cover an area of around twenty blocks in the city centre and will be extended in a second stage, a decision on which will be made in the first half of 2025. 

The EU investigation follows a directive that requires Member States to inform the Commission about reforms that may affect the freedom of movement within the Union. Consequently, examination coming at this time isn’t a complete surprise to the city.

Lars continues: ‘The health effects of exhaust gases are very well researched. Urban air pollution damages the lungs of children and causes the elderly to die prematurely. We assert that it is justified to limit vehicle emissions in areas where many people walk and cycle.

‘This [investigation] has been a possible scenario from the start and we have adequate time for an inquiry. The plan is still for the low-emission zone to come into force on New Year’s Eve 2024’

In fact, Lars goes as far as to see something positive in the inquiry: ‘The European Commission has fought to stop the sale of fossil-fuel vehicles within the Union. Now we expect them to also give green light to local bans on petrol and diesel cars. It would send a message of encouragement to all European politicians who are currently fighting for healthier cities.

‘Critics of the low-emission zone have portrayed it as a death blow for urban life. Our citizen survey shows quite the opposite. Stockholmers want a city with fewer fossil-fuel cars, cleaner air and more space for cycling and strolling.’

A recent survey of 2,700 citizens found that 55% predicted that they would be positively affected by the low-emission zone, while only 27% felt that they will be negatively affected.

photo: Alexander Donka

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