Environment minister Christophe Béchu announced a major expansion. regions à failables emissions (low emission areas) are known as ZFEs.
These zones already exist in 11 French cities – Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-Marseille, Nice, Toulon, Toulouse, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Rouen and Reims – but are mandatory for any town that has more of these areas by the end of 2025. they will be. 150,000 inhabitants. In total this will be about 40 towns and cities.
In addition, local authorities in smaller towns can create ZFEs if they wish.
It is worth noting that these zones may apply to the entire metropolis – the city, its suburbs and surrounding small towns – for example, the Paris region includes the city itself and the three surrounding districts of Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Hauts. in the Seine.
The system is currently operating in 11 cities and will be expanded to include others by the end of 2025.
In addition, enforcement will be accelerated with camera monitoring and fines of up to €750 – this will begin to happen in the second half of 2024.
The system works via Crit’Air tags – this is a tag that every vehicle entering the ZFE must display, assigning a number from 0 (electric vehicles) to 5 (legacy diesel vehicles) according to how polluting the vehicle is.
The Crit’Air sticker must be displayed on the windshield. Photograph: JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP
Vehicles labeled 4 and 5 are then banned in certain areas (usually in the city centre) or restricted to certain times. The exact details of the restrictions are up to local authorities with the authority to extend the borders – for example, Paris plans to ban Crit’Air 3 vehicles as well by July 2023.
Cities may also impose temporary extra restrictions when pollution levels increase, which usually occurs during the summer months.
If you are entering a ZFE, you will see signs like this:
This sign tells drivers that only vehicles with Crit’Air 0, 1, 2 and 3 are allowed.
Or announcements about matrix signs like this:
These signs say Crit’Air 3, 4 and 5 vehicles plus Unclassified (i.e. those without stickers) are banned. Photos: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP
These mandatory stickers are mandatory for all vehicles, including those without a French registration, and must be ordered before your trip – click HERE for order details.
How is this checked?
Currently, enforcement of ZFEs is irregular and depends on police stopping traffic. However, Béchu announced that automated systems would be introduced to monitor the system and issue fines.
Full details of how exactly this will work have yet to be revealed, but this is likely to involve remote cameras, similar to enforcement systems in cities like London.
Currently, the penalty for violating the Crit’Air rules – driving in a ZFE without a Crit’Air label or entering your vehicle in an area where it is not allowed – is €68. However, this would become a Class 4 traffic offense with a maximum fine of €750.
The new penalty levels will come into effect from the second half of 2024, but some local officials have said they will experience an ‘educational’ period where drivers will be warned about the new rules before they start imposing penalties.
Are there exceptions?
There are exceptions to vehicle bans, including cars with disability stickers, emergency vehicles, vintage cars and, in some areas, cars registered to essential workers such as medical personnel.
The environment ministry said the full list of exemptions will be announced “when the time comes”.
One of ZFE’s biggest criticisms is that they unfairly target those in worst condition who are more likely to own older, more polluting vehicles.
Financial assistance is available to French residents (you do not need to be a French citizen) to exchange their old cars for newer, less polluting models, including electric cars – more HERE.
Why is the government doing this?
ZFEs aim to reduce air pollution in towns and cities by banning the most polluting vehicles. They can exist alongside other local government-supported plans, such as pedestrianization of city centres.
Nitrogen dioxide levels in the air of many French cities, including Paris, Marseille and Lyon, exceed safe levels, and in early October the government was fined €10m for failing to meet its own targets for improving air quality.
“More than 40,000 deaths per year in our country are directly related to this poor air quality. “One of the ways to improve this is low-emission zones.”