Sunset in Paris, which has been basking in a streak of
unseasonable sunshine but also experiencing high air
pollution levels. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
France will introduce driving restrictions in Paris to
tackle dangerous pollution levels, the first such ban for
twenty years as politicians try to get rid of
health-threatening smog days before municiple elections.
Paris is more prone to smog than other European capitals
because of France's diesel subsidies and its high number of
private car drivers. A week-long spell of unseasonably warm,
sunny weather has recently exacerbated the problem.
Under the scheme, drivers may only use their cars on
alternate days, according to the odd or even numbers on their
licence plates. Free public transport, including cycle and
electric car-sharing schemes, was introduced last week as a
visible haze hung over Paris streets.
"Our core objective is to ensure public safety because we
want to end this pollution," Environment Minister Philippe
Martin told a news conference on Sunday, warning that the air
quality was likely to worsen on Monday.
Last week European Environment Agency (EEA) figures for
Thursday showed there was 147 microgrammes of particulate
matter (PM) per cubic metre of air in Paris - compared with
114 in Brussels, 104 in Amsterdam, 81 in Berlin and 79.7 in
Political opponents and car associations criticised the
decision, saying it would be tough to police, and accused the
Socialist government of conceding to pressure from its
coalition Green partners ahead of local elections in late
"This is impossible to enforce, stupid and an attempt to win
votes," Pierre Chasseray, president of drivers' lobby 40
Millions d'Autombolistes, told French televion and
Opposition UMP chief Jean-Francois Cope and mayor of Meaux in
the suburbs of Paris, said there was a lot of confusion about
"The ecologists have applied a lot of pressure on the
government and the decision was rushed.. It lacks coherence,
explanation and - on the ground, as a mayor from one of
Paris's suburbs - it's panic," he told Europe 1 radio.
The last restricted driving scheme was introduced in October
1997 in response to pollution from heavy diesel fumes. It
lasted one day.