Low Emission Zones, a not-so-green strategy

• This poll is released in conjunction with the program The earth is squareAbout Mathieu Vidard, France Inter.

Another pro-car event ! » Economist and urban planner Frédéric Heran does not lose his temper. With the introduction of low emission zones (EPZ), the government defends a all car and all truck based mobility », believes. These are EPZ nevertheless, it aims to drastically reduce car use in major urban centers. Forty-three towns are concerned and will have to gradually ban the most polluting vehicles from downtown, according to their chosen schedule.

The measure, consistently detailed in the Mobility Orientation and Climate and Sustainability laws, has a health rationale: reduced traffic should allow for improved air quality in our cities. Because France is not a good student in this field.

Fine particles are extremely high in many French cities. © Emmanuel Clevenot / Reporterre

According to European directives, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles PM10 — two compounds released mainly during the combustion of diesel — should not exceed 40 µg/m³ and 30 µg/m³, respectively, on average over the year. However, 27 French cities exceeded the regulatory threshold in 2021, including Paris, Rouen, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse. NO2 and for Guadeloupe, Martinique and Mayotte PM10.

The government therefore relies on its application to rapidly reduce urban pollution EPZ. With a tight schedule and strict criteria. According to Louis-Pierre Geffray, a mobility expert at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), around ten million cars will be affected.

On the electric road

In order to adapt to the French as soon as possible and to respond to the growing dissatisfaction, the government is increasing support measures for car purchases. the owner » : conversion aid, environmental bonus, interest-free loan.

The goal: to switch from a thermal car park to an electric car park as soon as possible. It’s four years of shifting greenhouse gas emissions from the production of a significant new car fleet, scrapping a number of aging vehicles and risking further exacerbating the social fractures that gave rise to the Yellow Vests.

A simple renewal of the car fleet will not solve the car growth in the cities in any way. © Pierre-Olivier Chaput / Reporterre

Faced with this complete car strategy, Frédéric Héran deplores the lack of common sense about the future of our mobility. What about public transport and soft mobility? ? And will we have to act so much in a world suffering from climate chaos at all? ? Can’t we imagine a stronger, more inclusive city that renews our way of life and reduces the distances we walk every day? ?

13.3 million people already live in France uncertainty mobility »that is, a quarter of the population of France (27.6 %). Among them, 3.7 million do not earn enough to pay for gas. 4.3 million people have long distances to travel, no alternative to a car, or old vehicles. 4.3 million people neither own a private vehicle (two-wheeler nor car) nor subscribe to public transport.

The electric car remains a relatively elite mode of transportation »

The electric car remains an elitist mode of transport »Camille Dehard of the Jacques Delors Institute confirms. The remaining amount to be paid – amounting to several tens of thousands of euros – remains unaffordable for many households. » In addition, electric models are often bulky.

Conclusion: their environmental compatibility should be considered in perspective, because only small-sized models are more environmentally friendly than internal combustion engines during the entire life cycle. The situation EPZ paradoxical: pollution decreases locally, but climate pressure increases elsewhere »Alternative summarizes Marseille’s spokeswoman Florence Joly.

On the other hand, this measure is a boon for car manufacturers. By 2025 A quarter to a third of the French car fleet will no longer be able to enter EPZ and should be replaced », assessed Pierre-Louis Geffray. That’s ten million cars.

With EPZit is more about having cars that pollute the city less than reducing the number of cars in use. © Pierre-Olivier Chaput / Reporterre

With 1.5-2 million new cars sold every year, the French car industry has at least five good years ahead of it. A prospect largely supported by the State, which plans to spend 1.3 billion euros in 2023 to help switch from heat to electricity. The subsidy is in addition to the €8 billion received in 2020 to support the sector during the health crisis.

To try to convince the merits of its support for the sector, the government is working with manufacturers on an electric car rental offer that the French can use for a hundred euros a month. The problem: the sector is reluctant to develop these smaller, less profitable models, but not their Chinese competitors.

Exit the full car model

Faced with these measures, Frédéric Héran calls for a more coherent transport policy: We need to reduce car traffic and at the same time promote alternative modes to the carhe insists. The EPZ it is a sectoral measure that only promotes the technical improvement of vehicles and ignores everything else. »

Alternatives and local consultation are essential for fair action. Once needs are identified, it is up to local authorities to adapt the offer (SWEATtram, bus, metro, cycle paths, scooters, etc.) and accompanying measures (freedoms, public transport funding).

It is a prerequisite for strengthening public transport EPZ more socially just. © Pierre-Olivier Chaput / Reporterre

At the regional level, the Infrastructure Steering Board recommends rail development a strong effort is needed » if the funds provided for in the state budget are insufficient. Consolidation and diversification of public transport offers at the local level is important.

According to driving expert Mathieu Flonneau, a historian at Paris-La Sorbonne University, local authorities tend to neglect public transport in the process of urban planning. As a result, due to lack of investment, buses and subways are often worn out, technical incidents are repeated and frequencies are not enough to satisfy users. The result: they suffer from a negative image ». But they already exist and are the only cars that can offer an alternative to the whole car with the ability to carry at least as many people.he insists.

In addition, the health crisis has diverted users to other modes of transport or pushed them to work remotely. The result: the sector is now less competitive and profitable, and public support remains low, leaving the hand to the metropolises.

The bike still lags behind

There is a rise in the hyper-individuality of transportation. We try to convince you that the bus or subway is obsolete », the historian laments. Cities are now betting on new alternative forms of transport more playful » : free shared bikes and electric scooters.

Bicycle a offer active mobility » More than half of the French are smart when they use their car to get to work less than two kilometers from home. For example, Paris built permanent bike lanes during the health crisis to relieve congestion on public transport. Bordeaux developed new routes and in 2022 the number of bicycles increased by 75 % on main boulevards. But in general, the funds are not enough.

The bike’s place at the heart of soft mobility still seems fragile and secondary. © Pierre-Olivier Chaput / Reporterre

According to the Institute for Climate Economics, more than one billion euros of additional investment per year would be needed to reach 9 shares. % of cycling mobility by 2024 as recommended by the National Low Carbon Strategy.

Recently, associations in the sector have criticized the bicycle plan with a budget of 250 million, which was announced with strong communication in the fall and is slowly progressing.

There is a problem with entering the city »

In large metropolises, there is a risk of exclusion of rural or suburban populations, as cities developed in the 20s.e century depending on the car. Without a car, there is the problem of access to work, recreation, grocery stores, public services, or simply essential health care.Camille Dehard explains. The yellow vests were not against carbon pricing or climate action, but they were against socially unjust climate policies. »

That’s why we need to look at the problem in the opposite direction and rethink the city to revitalize living spaces: reintegrating shops, businesses and services into the city centre. Frédéric Heran is convinced: the situation can be reversed.

Fair mobility

In addition, we should reconsider our intensive use of transport and consider moving less. About the note sent by TDIEEconomist Yves Crozet, professor emeritus at Sciences-Po Lyon, believes that targets for reducing carbon emissions in the transport sector require a review of this model. individual right of action » and in particular, car travel habits.

For the specialist, it is now considered a common good to move freely and easily. However, mobility will remain an individual freedom only if the entire population has equal access to it and it does not affect the future of future generations.

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