The news from Paris that its mayor Anne Hidalgo plans to ban all petrol-fuelled cars by 2030 cannot come as a total surprise to many observers. President Emmanuel Macron has set a 2040 target date for the sales of fossil-fuel powered vehicles to cease while Mme Hidalgo intends to ‘eradicate’ all diesel cars from the streets by 2020 in the run-up to the 2024 Summer Olympics. The city authorities believe that this 13-year period represents a feasible time frame for the phasing-out of cars powered by an internal combustion engine. According to the transport official Christophe Najdovski ‘This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases… we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles or fossil-energy vehicles’.
In fact, this 2030 target date is the latest in several measures aimed at gradually phasing out the use cars that run on fossil-based fuel. To combat smog, March of 2015 saw the banning of cars bearing even or odd number plates from entering both the city and 22 surrounding areas on alternate days; the only exemptions were for the emergency services plus electric or hybrid vehicles. Two months later, Mayor Hidalgo announced a project to replace the road that runs along the Seine’s right bank with garden that would extend from the Bastille to the Eiffel Tower, a move that was opposed by Pierre Chasseray of the consumer group 40 millions d'automobilistes (40 Million Motorists) on the grounds that ‘the additional traffic jams mean higher pollution and noise for local people. Also, the consequences on the local and regional economy are dramatic. In fact, the effects are the exact opposite of what one might hope’.
However, in August 2015 the French Government introduced emergency legislation that permitted towns to apply restrictions to certain forms of traffic and the 27th September 2015 was the first ‘Car Free Day’ in the history of the city. Given that Paris is the most widely visited urban settlement in the world, these high-profile plans have wider implications for usage across the globe. On this side of the channel, a major issue will obviously be how the impact of the 2030 deadline will be reflected in changes to British motoring. Two major differences between France and the UK are that the former has more diesel vehicles on the road and, although they still constitute a minority of transport, electric cars.
One area in which London has already followed Paris in is the banishment of older vehicles from their respective highways - in January of this year pre-1997 cars together with pre-2001 buses and lorries and motorcycles made before June 1999 were completely excluded from the French capital on Monday to Friday between 0800hrs am and 2000hrs. Exemptions applied to ambulances, fire engines, vehicles that transported money in cash form, delivery vehicles to green markets and classic cars. Nine months later the 23rd October marked the introduction of the £10 T-Charge, which will principally affect diesel and petrol vehicles that were registered before 2006.
And there have been incentives for Paris motorists to surrender their cars - residents who abandoned four-wheel motoring were granted an annual public transport pass or up to 400 euros towards a new bicycle. So, for the future, could it be that whatever the French capital has in store for its car owners today, London will have tomorrow…?