After years of failing to comply with EU environmental regulations, the city of Madrid, Spain, is getting close to implementing a plan to improve air quality. The Plan of Air Quality and Climate Change, or simply Plan A, includes 30 measures to be rolled out between 2018 and 2020 and has a budget of 543.9 million euros ($645 million US). If it succeeds, it will not only result in a large reduction of polluting emissions, but could also change the city dramatically.
Motor vehicles are the main source of many air pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, and 21 of the plan’s 30 measures have to do with sustainable mobility. These include putting restrictions on private cars — both in driving and parking — and investing in public transport and active modes of transport such as walking and cycling. The city expects to reduce the levels of particulate matter by 20 to 30 percent, of nitrogen dioxide by 20 percent, and of carbon monoxide by 30 percent.
The most visible measure will be the creation next year of a “zero-emissions zone” in the center of the city. Measuring about 4.5 square kilometers (1.75 square miles), the zone covers four areas that already have car restrictions, and further extends them and provides continuity. Only residents, public transport and zero-emission vehicles will be allowed to drive there. Initially, delivery vehicles will be allowed to circulate on some schedules, but restrictions will be adopted over time to keep the most pollutant cars out. Similarly, the city’s own current fleet will be gradually replaced with low-emission vehicles. By 2020, gas cars registered before 2006 and diesel cars registered before 2014 will be banned from entering the zero-emissions zone — even for residents.