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Clean transport, Urban transport

Green zones

Restrictions on circulation in urban areas through access limitations in the form of environmental zones, city tolls, congestion charging, etc. have rapidly spread throughout Europe over the last years.

National implementing legislation and local regulations widely differ. Local traffic bans or restrictions, however, should not discriminate among vehicles registered in different Member States. The Commission therefore expressed its concerns with respect to an increasingly complex situation in Europe with traffic restrictions through environmental zones in the Green Paper 'Towards a new culture for urban mobility', of 25 September 2007. It has acknowledged the environmental objectives of these actions. But it has also highlighted the risk of creating a fragmented patchwork of urban areas with new 'border lines' across Europe.
In the Green Paper consultations, many stakeholders called for guidance and for the development of harmonised rules for urban Green Zones at the EU level in order to enable a wide use of such measures without creating disproportionate barriers to mobility for citizens and goods.

The Action Plan on Urban Mobility, as adopted by the European Commission on 30 September 2009, includes the following action:

Action 7 — Access to green zones

The Commission will launch a study on the different access rules for the different types of green zones across the EU in order to improve knowledge on how the different systems work in practice. On the basis of the study results, the Commission will facilitate the exchange of good practices.

Therefore, the European Commission commissioned a study on urban access restrictions (green zones), which was finalised in December 2010. This can help cities to identify solutions that suit their needs and strengthen environmental protection while ensuring freedom of movement in a non-discriminatory way for all citizens in the European Union. An increasing number of cities in Europe have established 'green zones' to reduce pollutant and noise emissions.

As a related action, the European Commission is providing financial support to the website providing EU-wide dissemination of information on low emission zones (environmental zones) in Europe: Low emission zones in Europe