Barcelona bans old cars from city streets in bid to cut pollution

Older, high-polluting vehicles have been banned from the streets of Barcelona, Spain, in an effort to reduce pollution.
Older, high-polluting vehicles have been banned from the streets of Barcelona, Spain, in an effort to reduce pollution.
Image: ensup / 123rf

Barcelona on Thursday imposed a ban on older, high-polluting vehicles during most of the day in an attempt to reduce air pollution in Spain's second-largest city.

Petrol-powered cars registered in Spain before 2000 and diesel-powered cars registered before 2006 are now banned from most city streets on weekdays between 7am and 8pm. Owners face a fine of at least 100 euros (roughly R1,600) if they violate the rule.

All banned vehicles will be allowed to enter the city only 10 times a year.

Owners of vehicles registered outside Spain can request permission from city hall to drive in the Mediterranean coastal city, which is home to 1.6-million people.

Beginning in 2021, older vans, trucks and buses will also be banned.

The new rules are expected to affect around 50,000 vehicles a day and lead to a 15% cut in nitrogen dioxide emissions, a poisonous gas in car exhaust fumes.

Since last year, the Spanish capital Madrid has restricted driving in the old city centre to people who live there. Residents from outside the area can only drive there if they use an electric or other low-emission vehicle.

While this rule is more restrictive than the new policy put in place in Barcelona, the area of Madrid that is affected is much smaller.

Barcelona's far-left mayor, Ada Colau, has raised the possibility of introducing a congestion charge, like those already in place in other European cities such as London, Stockholm and Milan.

Barcelona has since 2002 exceeded the level of airborne carbon dioxide set by the European Union (EU), according to a 2017 report by the city's public health department. Its poor air quality caused a yearly average of 424 premature deaths between 2010 and 2017, said the report.

Last year Brussels asked the EU's Court of Justice to take action against Spain for its "systemic violations" of rules limiting nitrogen dioxide emissions.


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