The right consummates its rebellion against low emission zones (ZBE). The mayor of Badalona, Xavier García Albiol (PP), announced this Monday that the Badalona City Council – which he has presided over with an absolute majority since last June – will approve in the next plenary session to request a three-year moratorium on the application of fines in its low emissions zone (ZBE), which came into force this year and was scheduled to fine from January 1, 2024. The Climate Change Law requires that the 151 Spanish municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants already have one of these areas restricted traffic, although for now only 14 have it (including Badalona). The central government responds that it will supervise all projects financed by Next Generation European funds – two million euros in the case of Badalona – that the municipality will have to return the European aid if they do not launch the project as promised.
Low emission zones (ZBE) are areas, mostly located in the center of cities, in which the circulation or parking of older vehicles is limited, according to the label system of the General Directorate of Traffic ( DGT). Those cars and motorcycles without a label usually have access prohibited (at certain times, or at any time), cars with B or C labels may have (or not) some restriction, while Eco and Zero (electric) cars can circulate without issues. They serve to improve air quality and improve the health of citizens.
The usual thing is that the ZBEs are launched with an information period, without fines, but after a few months they begin to fine violators. This is what happened with Madrid Central – the first area of its kind in Spain – where in 2019 the newly elected mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, tried to implement a moratorium on the fines that the judges overturned.
The ordinance that accompanies the ZBE of Badalona establishes that cars without a DGT environmental label cannot circulate on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Initially, the City Council is sending the offending vehicles information letters warning that as of next January 1, it will begin fining them. The expected penalty is 200 euros for passenger cars with up to eight seats and motorcycles (with a 30% increase for repeat offenders). The initial idea was that seven months later, starting July 1, 2024, vans, trucks and buses would also be sanctioned.
Now, The mayor of Badalona paralyzes this plan. “We approved postponing until 2027 the entry into force of the ZBE (Low Emissions Zone) in Badalona—which had to come into force on January 1, 2024—. “You cannot punish neighbors to change their car in the middle of such a difficult economic time,” he said in a message on the social network X (formerly Twitter).
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The Ministry for the Ecological Transition responds. “It is the worst example of denialism and regression. Making it known during mobility week shows that they don’t care about the health of their citizens,” a spokesperson told EL PAÍS. And she warns: “Badalona City Council has received European funds to implement its low emissions zones. The Government will supervise all the projects and will have to return the amounts if they do not implement them in the manner and on time.”
According to data from the Ministry of Transport, the City Council has received almost two million European Next Generation funds for sustainable mobility measures, which include more than one million for the implementation of the ZBE, 540,000 euros for the urbanization of the Interchange area. of the Can Ruti Campus, and more than 300,000 to improve the efficiency of the town’s bus network. In total, 1.9 million, of which the City Council has already received 1.3 million. It is those funds that are at risk.
“Badalona’s approach is unacceptable, they are breaking the law,” denounces Miguel Ángel Ceballos, spokesperson for Ecologistas en Acción. “There is a legal and moral obligation on the part of city councils to protect the health of citizens, and delaying an essential measure for air quality such as ZBEs leaves their most vulnerable citizens, such as children, the elderly and people with illnesses, unassisted.” cardiorespiratory”, he continues. And he concludes: “This type of rebellious attitude towards compliance with the Climate Change Law seems disgraceful to us. “We are going to study administrative and judicial actions.”
Controversy with traffic restrictions
Low-emission zones are usually controversial at the beginning, although most citizens later verify their positive effects in reducing traffic and improving air quality. The PP denounced Madrid Central in court and obtained its annulment, although in the end it ended up applying a similar restriction and even improved it later.
Meanwhile, Barcelona was the second city in Spain to implement a ZBE. Its implementation, announced in 2018 and in force since 2020, was very controversial and changes were applied to the initial design before it came into force. Among other issues, permits were adjusted so that poor families who have unmarked cars and need them to work could circulate; or the moratoriums were extended for special vehicles (funeral, street vending) or those that require large investments, such as coaches or heavy trucks.
Once applied, the Barcelona model was what inspired the Ministry to extend its implementation in municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants throughout Spain. Despite all this, the contentious-administrative chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) annulled the ZBE Barcelona ordinance in March 2022. The annulment, appealed by former mayor Ada Colau before the Supreme Court, responded to six appeals presented by ten associations or unions (mostly linked to the motor or transport of people or goods), which were debated jointly by the court. .
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