Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brazilians observe how Germans are creating Low Emission Zones in cities

When it comes to the performance and quality of our streets in cities around the world, the simple truth is that for now at least we are stuck with far more losers than winners. But that is only part of the story; and one of the tasks of World is to keep a weather eye out for projects and programs, tools and policies which open up the possibility of creating better streets and better cities. Here for example you have a conversation between a Brazilian environmentalist and a German scientist running a pioneering program for a low emisssions zone which is up and running in Berlin.

Interview with Martin Lutz, Director, Low Emission program of the Berlin Senate

- By Lincoln Paiva , Green Mobility Brazil
(With kind thanks to the author for translating from the Portuguese original text which first appeared this week in http://mobilidadesustentavel.blog.uol.com.br/.)
This week I talked with Mr. Martin Lutz, Responsible for the Department of Health, environment and quality of Air Berlin's Senate. He told me how Berlin instituted the LEZ (Low Emission Zone) in 2005, with the goal of reducing the emission of toxic gases emitted by vehicles, also spoke about the difficulties in convincing companies of logistics, small businessmen and the population which used highly polluting vehicles in areas of high concentration of toxic gas vehicle. Mr Lutz was directly responsible for the Deployment of Low Emission Zones in Berlin. Germany has implemented the most stringent policies regarding the vehicular emissions of harmful gases in Germany, he tells us how the LEZ has been reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the population's health.
Lincoln Paiva: What were the main barriers to the successful deployment of an LEZ (Low Emission Zones) in Berlin?

Martin Lutz: A number of preparatory steps had to be taken before putting the low emission zone (LEZ) into practice. As the LEZ is a selective traffic ban for the most polluting vehicles, a vehicle identification scheme was needed as a precondition for practical enforcement. According to our legislative framework, the Federal Government was in charge to come up with a respective regulation for a nationwide concept, which paved the way for implementing LEZ also in other German cities, if necessary. Contrary to the technically sophisticated approach in London and Stockholm with a CCTV--based automatic number recognition system, the German scheme is based on a simple sticker system for the window screen, which illustrates the emission category of each vehicle willing to enter the LEZ.

In addition, a market for retrofit kits for diesel particulate filter (DPF) needed to be built up, so that most of the diesel vehicles affected by the traffic ban could be upgraded by retrofitting them with a particle trap.

In order to allow vehicle owners to adapt to the emission criteria of the LEZ, for example by retrofitting or replacing their vehicle stock, a 2 1/2 year transition period was granted between the adoption of the scheme in August 2005 and its launch in January 2008. In addition, a more stringent stage 2 came into force in January 2010 with the Euro 4 emission standard as the basic criterion for all diesel vehicles, including light and heavy goods vehicles. Older diesel vehicles can be upgraded to that standards by a retrofit with a DPF.

More information on Berlin's LEZ and the vehicle labelling scheme can be found on our website http://www.berlin.de/sen/umwelt/luftqualitaet/en/luftreinhalteplan/umweltzone_allgemeines.shtml. The site www.lowemissionzones.eu provides an overview on all LEZ planned or in force in Europe.

LP: Public attitudes toward the program?

Martin Lutz: While drawing up Berlin's clean air plan, which stipulates several measures including the LEZ, the concept went through a public consultation process, in order to gain support of the Berlin's citizens for the plan and for the LEZ in particular. Due to the long transition period and additional funding granted by the national government to those retrofitting their diesel car with a DPF the low emission zones was generally accepted by the urban population. However, resistance by truckers and business associations was also voiced, pointing to the economic burden because of the investment in new vehicles or in retrofitting emerging from the introduction of the LEZ. These concerns were accommodated by drawing up a set of rules under which individual temporary exemptions from the traffic ban could be granted to vehicle operators who can prove that they would run into severe economic problems because of the LEZ.

LP: What were the results? Was there a reduction of traffic?

Martin Lutz: After two years since the start of the Low Emission Zone in Berlin its success can be clearly seen in terms of an accelerated shift towards cleaner vehicles, reduced pollutant emissions and better air quality. While traffic flows have not changed due to the LEZ, the turnover of the vehicle fleet towards more cleaner vehicles has speeded up considerably, resulting in the first year of its introduction in 21% less exhaust particle emissions and 15% lower NOx emission from Berlin’s motor traffic. Measured concentrations of black carbon at kerbside spots decreased in 2008 by around 15%. Despite an increasing share of direct NO2-emissions, NO2 concentrations in Berlin have also decreased by 7-10%, after several years without a visible downward trend. With the recent launch of stage 2 of the LEZ its mitigation effect on the air pollution is expected to eventually reduce total particulate matter concentrations (PM10) by up to 10%.

LP: What are the health benefits accruing to a decrease in vehicle emissions and implementation of the LEZ?

Martin Lutz: Given the high toxicity of diesel particle emissions it can be expected that the LEZ-related drop in black carbon levels is also resulting in a fall of respiratory diseases and eventually in a reduction of premature mortality especially among the poorer population living along heavily trafficked roads. Concrete investigations have not yet been launched but are planned for the coming years, when more data on the effects on pollution levels and on public health will be available.

LP: You say that Berlin has simplified monitoring in relation to London. How does that work?

Martin Lutz: As mentioned above a simpler sticker system has come into force, which allows to clearly identify the vehicles allowed to enter the zone, which cover 88 km2 with almost one third of Berlin's 3.6 Mio inhabitants living in the LEZ. Police and staff of the local municipal public order offices have enforced penalties, resulting in about 60.000 fines since the launch of the LEZ.

LP: How are you engaging the public?

Martin Lutz: An extensive information campaign was launched after the adoption of the scheme, with flyers, newspaper articles and advertisements in TV and radio.

LP: Are there penalties for infringement?

Martin Lutz: Driving within the zone without a sticker or with a non-compliant vehicle is penalised with 40€ and with one point in the national road penalty register.

LP:: Finally...What is the cost of monitoring the program in Berlin?

Berlin's spends a lot of effort in monitoring air quality in the city, with a network of 16 automatic stations, which continuously record the pollution concentration within the city area. Extra monitoring of black carbon and nitrogen oxide is being done at additional 20 kerbside spots. In addition with dispersion models and traffic detectors a good data base is available to assess the impact of the LEZ and other measures on the air quality. The costs of these extra monitoring and assessment activities alone are well above 100.000 € per year.

Originally published in Portuguese : http://mobilidadesustentavel.blog.uol.com.br/
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About the authors:

Lincoln Paiva is director of Green Mobility Brazil. How to ensure people’s transportation and at the same time be sustainable? The Green Mobility Project arose from the need to develop a culture concerned with managing the demand for mobility in a sustainable manner in order to reduce the use of individual transportation, responsible for 70% of the occupation of the earth and for the problems arising from this option such as pollution and investments in modal infrastructure, as well as to discuss alternative, more sustainable means for cities.

Martin Lutz has a university degree in meteorology and air chemistry. More than 2 decades ago he started dealing with winter smog alarm management in Berlin. During a four year detachment to the EU Commission he was drafting an European ozone strategy and a new ozone Directive. Back in Berlin he led investigations in the sources of PM10 pollution and an impact analysis of control measures on PM10 and NO2 pollution. He was developing Berlin’s air quality strategy. Mr. Lutz is now head of the sector on air pollution. FOr more on the LEZ project: http://www.life-spas.at/deutsch/includes/12_Lutz-LEZ-Sep09-EN-sent%281%29.pdf

For more information on Low Emission Zones in Europe:

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