Low Emission Zones, “social bomb”?

On November 4, there was Reims, Rouen, even Montpellier. This Friday, Pierre Chasseray leaves his suitcases in Grenoble and then in Lyon the next day. In a fortnight it will still be Strasbourg, and the general delegation of 40 million motorists will have completed their extraordinary tour of France. The “Great Circle of the Excluded” called it a motorists’ defense union.

Pierre Chasseray goes there to seek the testimony of residents who fear the creation of low emission zones (ZFE). He claims to have already collected several thousand of them, which will feed into a documentary planned for early next year, and is already gaining confidence: “The question is not whether we are for or against this ZFE, but when will they set France on fire? “, he explains.

“Social time bomb”

The device aims to limit access to agglomerations – part of their territory – for the most polluting vehicles. It relies on Crit’Air vignettes, which classify cars according to their emissions of fine particles and nitrogen oxides. Although there are no sanctions to date, some EPZs are already in force. Valentin Desfontaines, ‘urban mobility’ manager at the Climate Action Network (RAC), explains: ‘This is the case in eleven agglomerations* that regularly exceed European air quality thresholds. However, on January 1, 2025, the other 34 French cities with a population of more than 150,000 must in turn establish a ZFE**.

Pierre Chasseray saved this date as “the absolute detonation of this time bomb of the ZFE”. It could be even sooner, he said, when Transport Minister Clément Beaune announced on October 25 that automated checks for sanctions would be in place from the second half of 2024 ***.

No wonder 40 million motorists are hostile to EPZs, with “driving power” being one of their beliefs. But this social risk of the device is not ignored by those who consider the device effective and necessary both to improve air quality in big cities and to accelerate ecological transition. The increase in their number, as well as the gradual extension of traffic restrictions, “will have a significant impact on mobility, consequently on access to daily activities and on the rights of millions of residents”, writes MEPs Gerard Leseul (PS) and. Bruno Millienne (Modem) on October 14th at the conclusion of a “flash mission” on how to better support ZFEs.

40% of French worried about 2025… Or more?

A very neglected social risk by the executive? Valentin Desfontaines criticizes: “This often gives the impression of treating the ZFE as a stand-alone mobility policy”. It is just one tool to change our mobility among others, and it is only effective if it is accompanied by a real support strategy to make it socially acceptable. going will be terrible. »

Among their 20 recommendations in this regard, Gerard Leseul and Bruno Millienne particularly insist on the need to accelerate the deployment of alternatives to the car. For example, by creating dedicated lanes for express bus lines or relay parks connected to public transport for car management or on the outskirts of cities. “Interesting initiatives have been launched,” notes Valentin Desfontaines.

Among their 20 recommendations in this regard, Gerard Leseul and Bruno Millienne particularly insist on the need to accelerate the deployment of alternatives to the car. By placing dedicated lanes for express bus lines or car lanes or, for example, by creating relay parks connected to public transport on the outskirts of cities. Referring to the creation of the European Metropolitan Express Network (REME), Valentin Desfontaines notes that “Interesting initiatives have been launched. This will significantly expand the train offer and schedules to Strasbourg.” But often there is much to do, “and it is up to the state, as the organizer of mobility, to work more on it, for example by strengthening the rail network,” insists Gerard Leseul.

“We turn a blind eye to the rest of the accusation”

Another key issue: assistance in purchasing a clean vehicle. Here again, national systems exist or have been announced. An environmental bonus, a conversion bonus, or even Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promise for the beginning of 2024, an offer to lease an electric car for 100 euros per month for the most modest households. On October 25, Clément Beaune, still himself, assured that these installations were “an effort unparalleled in Europe.”

Valentin Desfontaines points out that there is still a downside: “We hide our eyes on what remains to be paid, that is, the amount that will be paid after deducting these aids. For an entry-level electric, it’s around 8,000 euros, too much for many French people. If local aid is sometimes added, it is still very uneven across the area.” As for Macron leasing, Gérard Leseul is skeptical. “A classic leasing offer always includes a higher initial lease than subsequent ones, and the same for the latter if the person absolutely wants to buy the car. Are payouts guaranteed to be €100 from start to finish? The contours are very blurry. » What was he referring to? echoes September 29.

And the weight of the vehicles?

At RAC, as with the results of the flash mission, we are asking for better targeting of these aids to achieve a clean vehicle. Valentin Desfontaines believes: “Even if it means removing 30% of the wealthiest families from these devices. The savings earned can ultimately be channeled into the most modest way to reach acceptable out-of-pocket payments. But the “urban mobility” manager at the RAC also invites us to take the problem in a different direction. “The state should use all its power to direct the production of electric cars to the most sober and cheapest models.” This means lighter, insists many NGOs who regularly ask to lower the automalus limit. [de 1,8 tonnes aujourd’hui à 1,3]. Valentin Desfontaines adds: “We can also imagine different parking prices depending on the weight of the vehicles, or we can even integrate this mass parameter – even CO2 emissions – into the entry criteria for ZFEs. Today, the paradox is: the SUV that emits a lot of CO2 Crit’ air 1 because it emits some fine particles and nitrogen oxides. »

Temporary need for flexibility?

Due to the lack of optimal support to date, Gérard Leseul and Bruno Millienne further advocate flexibility and flexibility in the implementation of ZFEs in their flash missions. At least temporarily. An example is Strasbourg, once again a notebook. This allows individuals to make up to twelve trips per year in the ZFE in a theoretically prohibited vehicle. “We could go up to 24,” said the Seine-Maritime deputy. Pierre Chasseray replies: “But there are thousands of exceptions where it would be legal to issue a ZFE so that it no longer has any meaning.” Kim will only accept such areas “if they are confined to the heart of very large cities and give concessions to residents.”

*These are Paris, Metropolitan of Greater Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-Marseille, Montpellier, Nice, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulon and Toulouse. These agglomerations are currently not equally constrained. But from January 1, 2023, the Crit’Air 5 (diesel vehicles manufactured before 2001) will be forcibly banned, at least there. On January 1, 2024, it will be the Crit’Air 4 (pre-2006 diesel), followed by the Crit’Air 3 (pre-2011 diesel and pre-2006 gasoline) on January 1, 2025. forward, recalls Valentin Desfontaines. The restrictions theoretically already apply to Crit’Air 5 and 4, and will apply to Crit’Air 4 next summer. It should also be noted that Reims and Saint-Etienne have already established their ZFE without being forced to do so.

** These 34 agglomerations will retain complete freedom to decide on the timing and extent of restrictions. “Obviously, they shouldn’t extend the restrictions to Crit’Air 3 cars right away,” says Valentin Desfontaines.

*** Level 3 offence, i.e. a fixed fine of €68

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