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Brussels to ban fossil fuel-powered cars from city streets by 2035

Image credit: Mārtiņš Zemlickis - Unsplash

The Brussels government has announced a total ban on petrol and diesel-powered cars in the city by 2035.

As part of the city’s ongoing drive for cleaner air, and in support of wider climate change ambitions, the government of Brussels – one of Belgium’s three self-governing states - has declared that vehicles with combustion engines running on diesel fuel will be banned in the city by 2030, with petrol-powered vehicles to be phased out in the following five years.

The Brussels Capital Region made the traffic announcement ahead of plans to go carbon-neutral by 2050. Brussels is already heavily congested and suffers from poor air quality during peak traffic hours.

After 2035, drivers will have to switch to battery-powered hybrid or electric vehicles or adopt alternative propulsion methods such as biofuels or hydrogen.

The previous Brussels government created a low-emission zone (LEZ), which includes areas in all the Brussels communes. A ban on the highest-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles between now and 2025 is already under way. Motorcycles – previously excluded from LEZ rules – will now also be subject to scrutiny, with the highest-polluting motorcycles banned from 2022.

Brussels authorities are also considering creating zero-emission zones (ZEZ), building on an initial change that has already seen the Boulevard Anspach – once a main traffic route through the heart of the city – transformed into a tree-lined pedestrian thoroughfare devoid of vehicles.

The city now intends to create Europe’s largest pedestrian zone, in the ‘pentagon’ in the centre of the capital and encompassing high-traffic areas such as popular shopping districts.

The proposed ZEZ will have stricter access rules than LEZ. Non-rechargeable hybrid petrol engines and CNG engines will not be affected by these rules because of their environmental benefits.

The current ‘day pass’ system, which allows people to drive banned vehicles in the LEZ up to eight times a year, will remain in use. Foreign vehicles, perhaps unfamiliar with the regulations, could be subject to strict checks via mobile enforcement teams and particle filter fraud detection.

The climate plan announced by the Brussels Capital Region is a requirement by Belgian national law to demonstrate a commitment and a path towards meeting the nation’s commitments under the 2016 Paris agreement. The plan is expected to reduce CO2 emissions in the city by 40 per cent by 2030, heading towards being full decarbonisation by 2050 – a stated EU goal.

Paris, Madrid, and Copenhagen have all announced that they will ban diesel cars over the next decade, while London, Rome and Barcelona have pledged to ban all internal combustion engine cars from their city-centre roads by the end of the 2030s.

According to Bloomberg, 24 European cities accounting for 62 million people will ban diesel vehicles over the next decade, with 13 of those cities choosing to ban both diesel and petrol-driven vehicles.

While the environmental benefits of this trend are widely acknowledged as being crucial in helping combat the worst effects of climate change, concerns have been expressed that cities are not matching the ban on fossil fuel-powered vehicles with a parallel investment in public transport infrastructure upgrades or a greater provision for charging electric vehicles.

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