In its last meeting of the year, the Council of Ministers has approved the royal decree governing the low-emission zones. 149 municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants in Spain require traffic restriction areas for the most polluting vehicles by January 1, 2023, as established by the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition. However, very few will follow through. And one of the arguments used by the mayors is that the government had not approved the royal decree for the development of those areas, so they were seeking a moratorium.
Although the royal decree has not yet been approved, the Ministry of Ecological Transition, which has refused to grant the municipalities additional time, argues that the municipalities have had to follow the application guidelines since “last November 19, 2021”. We knew when the department headed by Vice President Teresa Ribera and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) presented a guide with instructions on how to implement this type of measure that seeks to improve air quality.
Initially, the ministry did not consider approving the royal decree and believed that these guidelines were sufficient, but several judicial setbacks against low-emission areas of the Barcelona metropolitan area and other cities led to the decision to develop a standard that would provide greater protection. Acts against the complaints of councilors which are presented in the courts. The text of the royal decree was revealed to the public in April and has been processed until now.
But climate change law violations are going to be massive. Of the 149 affected municipalities EL PAIS has consulted, only 20 have confirmed they will arrive in time to commission their low-emission zones in January. Many sangats argued the lack of this royal decree for non-compliance with the law and others offered free interpretation on the date on which they were bound to bring them into operation (the criteria leave no room for doubt when It is established that it “must happen before 2023”)).
Ecologists in Action, which from the outset called for these areas to be regulated through a royal decree, criticized the mayors’ attitude. “City councils have known for more than three years that they must approve their low emissions zones, because all the draft legislation [aprobada definitivamente en mayo de 2021] They set it up that way,” explains Carmen Duce from this environmental organization. Furthermore, this activist recalls that the municipalities also had 1,500 million euros of European funds to develop this measure. Despite this, the negligence is widespread. clearly coming to the fore.
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Ecologistas en Acción, like other conservation organizations, criticize the electoral background behind this defiance of the law: many mayors believe that approving the traffic restrictions will take away their votes in the May municipal elections. “We are talking about human life, about health,” the deuce complains about the attitude of the councilors.
The FEMP, headed by Vigo’s mayor, socialist Abel Caballero, has requested a freeze on the ministry on several occasions since last summer. But, after EL PAÍS published in late October that only 13% of the 149 affected intended to comply with the law, Ribera’s department refused additional time, always on the grounds that councilors would have to wait until 2021. Knew the application guidelines for these areas.
The ministry has clarified that the development of the royal decree approved this Tuesday “defines specific and quantifiable objectives” in order to “easily monitor and evaluate” low-emission areas. Furthermore, it establishes “minimum requirements that these territories must meet in key aspects such as extent, delimitation or access conditions, providing legal certainty to individuals and companies through homogeneous legislation throughout the national territory.”
In addition, the ministry has explained that the low-emission zones should “contribute to improving air quality and mitigating climate change” in addition to reducing noise pollution and promoting mobility changes. “All this will improve citizens’ health and quality of urban life, promote more sustainable and inclusive mobility with less impact on sound environmental quality, and promote active mobility and recovery of public space” ecological transition.
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