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Low Emission Zones, a ticking “social bomb”?

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There was Reims, Rouen, or even Montpellier on November 4. This Friday, Pierre Chasseray puts his suitcases in Grenoble, then in Lyon the next day. There will still be Strasbourg in a fortnight’s time, and the general delegate of 40 million motorists will be done with his atypical tour of France. “The Great Loop of the Excluded”, titled it the association for the defense of motorists.

Pierre Chasseray goes there in search of testimonials from residents who fear the establishment low emission zones (ZFE). He claims to have already collected several thousand of them which will feed a documentary planned for the beginning of next year, and already slips a certainty: “The challenge is not so much to know if we are for or against these ZFE, but if they will set fire to France and when? “, he explains.

“A social time bomb”

The device aims to restrict access to agglomerations – part of their territories – to the most polluting vehicles. For this he relies on Crit’Air vignettes, which classify vehicles according to their emissions of fine particles and nitrogen oxides. While there have been no sanctions to date, some EPZs are already in place. “This is the case in the eleven agglomerations* which regularly exceed European air quality thresholds, explains Valentin Desfontaines, “urban mobility” manager at the Climate Action Network (RAC). But on January 1, 2025, the 34 other French cities with more than 150,000 inhabitants must, in turn, have set up their ZFE**.

It is this date that Pierre Chasseray retains as that “of the explosion without fail of this time bomb ZFE”. It could be even earlier, according to him, while Clément Beaune, the Minister of Transport, announced on October 25 automated checks for sanctions *** from the second half of 2024.

That 40 million Motorists, including the “be able to ride” is one of the credo, is hostile to EPZs is not surprising. But this social risk of the device is not ignored either by those who consider the tool effective and necessary, both to improve air quality in large cities and to accelerate the ecological transition. The increase in their number, but also the gradual extension of traffic restrictions, “will have a considerable impact on mobility, and consequently, on access to daily activities and the rights of millions of inhabitants”, write the deputies Gerard Leseul (PS) and Bruno Millienne (Modem) in the conclusions of their “flash mission” on the issue of better supporting ZFEs, on 14 October.

40% of French people concerned in 2025… Or even more?

A social risk too neglected by the executive? “It too often gives the impression of considering the ZFE as acting, on its own, as a mobility policy,” criticizes Valentin Desfontaines. It is only one tool among others to transform our mobility and it is only effective if it is accompanied by a real support strategy to make it socially acceptable. to go will be terrible. »

Among their 20 recommendations in this regard, Gérard Leseul and Bruno Millienne insist in particular on the need to accelerate the deployment of alternatives to the car. By deploying reserved lanes for express bus lines or for carpooling or by creating relay car parks connected to public transport on the outskirts of cities, for example. “There are interesting initiatives launched”, notes Valentin Desfontaines, citing the creation of the

Among their 20 recommendations in this regard, Gérard Leseul and Bruno Millienne insist in particular on the need to accelerate the deployment of alternatives to the car. By deploying lanes reserved for express bus lines or for carpooling, or by creating relay car parks connected to public transport on the outskirts of cities, for example. “There are interesting initiatives launched”, notes Valentin Desfontaines, citing the creation of the European Metropolitan Express Network (REME), “which will significantly expand the train offer and timetables to Strasbourg”. But very often, there is still a lot to do, “and it is also up to the State, as an organizer of mobility, to work much more on it, by strengthening the rail network for example”, insists Gérard Leseul .

“We hide our eyes on the rest of the charge”

Another key issue: aid for the acquisition of a clean vehicle. Here again, national systems exist or have been announced. The ecological bonus, the conversion bonus, or even Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promise, announced for the beginning of 2024, of a leasing offer of an electric vehicle at 100 euros per month for the most modest households. Put end to end, these devices represent an “incomparable effort in Europe”, assured Clément Beaune, still him, on October 25.

There is still a downside, points out Valentin Desfontaines: “We hide our eyes on the rest to be paid, that is to say what remains to be paid once these aids have been deducted. For an entry-level electric, it is around 8,000 euros, far too heavy for many French people. And if local aid is sometimes added, it is still very uneven across the territory.” As for Macron leasing, Gérard Leseul has doubts. “A classic leasing offer always includes a higher first rent than those that follow, and the same for the last if the individual definitely wishes to buy the car. Are we guaranteed that the payments will be 100 euros from start to finish? The outlines are very blurry. » What was pointing The echoes September 29.

And the weight of the vehicles?

At the RAC, as in the conclusions of the flash mission, we then plead for better targeting of these aids for the acquisition of a clean vehicle. “Even if it means taking the 30% of the wealthiest households out of these devices, assumes Valentin Desfontaines. The savings made could be redirected towards the most modest to finally reach acceptable out-of-pocket payments. But the “urban mobility” manager at the RAC also invites us to take the problem in the other direction. “The State must also use all its weight to redirect the production of electric vehicles towards the most sober and least expensive models”. Which means lighter, insist many NGOs who regularly ask to lower the threshold of the auto malus [de 1,8 tonnes aujourd’hui à 1,3]. “We could also imagine different parking prices depending on the weight of the vehicles, or even integrate this parameter of mass – and even that of CO2 emissions – in the criteria for access to ZFEs, adds Valentin Desfontaines. This is the paradox today: an SUV that emits a lot of CO2 can be Crit’air 1 because it emits few fine particles and nitrogen oxides. »

A temporary need for flexibility?

For lack of optimal support to date, Gérard Leseul and Bruno Millienne then advocate, in their flash mission, agility and flexibility in the implementation of ZFEs. At least temporarily. The example, once again, is Strasbourg, with its logbook. It allows individuals twelve trips per year in the ZFE with a theoretically prohibited vehicle. “We could go up to 24,” said the deputy of Seine-Maritime. “But there are thousands of derogations that it would be legitimate to grant, so that the ZFE would no longer have any meaning”, retorts Pierre Chasseray. Who will only accept such areas “if they are limited in the hearts of very large cities and by giving an exemption to residents”.

*These are Paris, the metropolis of Greater Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-Marseille, Montpellier, Nice, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulon and Toulouse. These agglomerations are currently not all at the same rate in the restrictions. But, from January 1, 2023, Crit’Air 5 (diesel vehicles produced before 2001) will be compulsorily prohibited there at least. On January 1, 2024, it will be the turn of the Crit’Air 4 (diesel before 2006) then the Crit’Air 3 (diesel before 2011 and petrol before 2006) on January 1, 2025. forward, recalls Valentin Desfontaines. The restrictions already apply in theory to Crit’Air 5 and 4 and will extend to Crit’Air 4 next summer. It should also be noted that Reims and Saint-Etienne have also already established their ZFE without being obliged to do so.

** These 34 agglomerations will retain full freedom to decide on the timing and scope of the restrictions. “Clearly, they should not immediately extend the restrictions to Crit’Air 3 vehicles”, specifies Valentin Desfontaines.

*** a class 3 offence, i.e. a fixed fine of 68 euros

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