Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Mandating lower tailpipe emissions throughout European cities

Paris Curbs GHG Emissions from Automobiles with Crit'Air

Crit'Air in Paris is one of the largest pioneering programs in a major world city to mandate compliance with emission standards for vehicles (in this case, European emissions standards). After successful implementation in Paris, Crit'Air policies now cover around 28 permanent zones in France, and also weather-dependent zones in France.

Drivers on the streets of Paris are mandated to put color-coded stickers on the windshields of their vehicles. This enables easy identification by the Paris police of those vehicles with the highest levels of GHG emissions, and vehicles deemed very polluting in the Crit'Air system are banned from the streets of Paris.

Prior to the sticker system, lawmakers in Paris had introduced the rather impractical system that saw vehicles with odd or even-numbered plates banned from Paris roads on alternate days (an idea that didn't last long), and other dubious ideas to curb tailpipe pollution in Paris that failed to take off.

After the wrinkles in the Crit'Air program in Paris were ironed out, the program became widely adopted by cities throughout France. Another pioneering low-emissions zone in Europe is in London. Based on the successes of Crit'Air and London's C-charge, low-emissions zones have taken off all over Europe (and the rest of the world).

Other European Low-Emissions Zone Programs

The London congestion charge (C-Charge), and Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London, like Crit'Air in France, is designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from inefficient fossil fuel cars; and also designed to get lower-emitting, more fuel-efficient vehicles (like electric vehicles, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids) on the road in place of their dirtier-fueled counterparts.

Another trend-setting European city as far as reducing tailpipe pollution is Oslo, Norway. Oslo is in the midst of putting a citywide ban on fossil-fuel cars. A smaller municipality that has set a sustainable example by greatly reducing vehicles on its roads is the city district of Vauban in Freiburg, Germany. Vauban has effectively reduced the number of cars on its roads dramatically.

Even Manhattan, NYC, is mandating a congestion charge similar to the one in London. Other European cities like Copenhagen, Paris, Brussels, and Madrid, are implementing limitations on fossil-fueled cars on their roads; and instead encouraging alternative forms of transit.

How does the Crit’Air system work?

Crit'Air stickers

Vehicles driven in the regions of France Crit'Air covers, as in the city of Paris, must purchase color-coded stickers as per Crit'Air guidelines.

There are six Crit'Air sticker colors, based on: the type of vehicle, the date of the vehicle's manufacturing/ registration, the vehicle's energy efficiency rating by EU emissions standards, and the level of GHG emissions for the vehicle. Green is the cleanest category, and grey the worst. Green is for electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen cars.

Low emission cars also get special access to certain parts of the city that more polluting cars don't have. Orange stickers designate levels of lower-emission (Euro 4) vehicles; yellow stickers represent still fossil fuel-based, but low emitting, fuel-efficient (Euro 5 & 6) vehicles; and hybrid vehicles usually get at least a purple sticker.

Under the Crit’Air system, vehicles registered before 1997, and trucks and buses registered before 2001, automatically get a grey sticker. These vehicles are banned from the streets in Paris. France has around 32 million vehicles on its streets, and approximately 6% of cars in Paris fall into this grey Crit'Air category. The next category is for vehicles registered between 2001 and 2005 and these account for 14% of cars in Paris. The authorities in Paris are extending the ban to these vehicles as well. Because Crit'Air works to encourage newer, more efficient vehicles, some have criticized the Crit’Air system, saying that it targets those who are unable to afford newer vehicles.

The vehicles that are preferred by the Crit'Air system in Paris are those conforming to the Euro 5 emission standards, and Euro 6 emissions standards, as well as all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles. EVs all get a green sticker, while Euro 5 & 6/ hybrid vehicles usually get at least yellow or purple stickers.

Also preferred by the Crit'Air system are a relatively small number of vehicles that are under the category of antique cars and collectible vehicles. Approximately 600,000 vehicles per day use the Paris road network. Those found without stickers will get a hefty fine. Cars without Crit'Air stickers in Paris are fined around €68, to as much as double that.

The Crit'Air sticker system has been implemented in many cities throughout France, at least temporarily. Paris, however, is making their Crit'Air system permanent. In addition, the authorities in Paris are introducing other measures to reduce traffic. As part of the effort in Paris to reduce GHG emissions, to reduce other pollution from vehicles in the city, and help in the fight against global warming; some roads in Paris are closed to traffic at times, while other areas of Paris are designated ‘pedestrian only’ zones.

France's efforts in reducing GHGs with legislative mandates to curb auto emissions are only part of France's sustainability ambitions. Another legislative advancement that France has made (in 2016) is to tackle the problem of food waste; by mandating that supermarkets donate unsold food items to charity.

Please read:

Please also see:

Green city: London (and London's Congestion Charge)

streets of Paris at sunset

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