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Denmark signals support for zero-emissions zones in cities

A new proposal presented by the government on Wednesday could give local authorities the ability to designate zero-emissions zones in cities.

Denmark signals support for zero-emissions zones in cities
Parking spaces at a charging point in Aalborg. The sign reads "reserved for electric cars". File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The zones would only allow access to vehicles without combustion engines, such as electric cars.

Wednesday’s government proposal states that there is already demand at municipalities for zero-emissions zones in set parts of cities in order to reduce air and noise pollution.

The government said it wants to accommodate that demand while still enabling people to live, move around and shop in the zones.

“The government will therefore look closely at whether affected residents and businesses in the area have realistic alternatives and that there would be time to meet the criteria,” the government writes in the proposal.

“A framework must also be set to ensure access for necessary use of industrial vehicles, including delivery of goods,” it adds.

A long period of transition would be required in municipalities that decide to take up the option of establishing the zones, according to interest groups for the automotive industry.

Goods vehicles could be amongst those to face the largest obstacles in such a situation, as the range on zero emissions goods vehicles on the market is limited, according to the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI).

“That means it would be difficult to ensure supply to cities where the requirement for zero emissions might be effective,” DI’s CEO Lars Sandahl Sørensen said via written comment.

The association for car importers in Denmark, De Danske Bilimportører, said that the zones would be difficult to implement without a long phasing-in.

“The proposal for zero emissions zones in particular is very far reaching and can hardly be implemented without a long phasing in period, as the range of electric and hydrogen cars with sufficient range should be greater,” the organization’s CEO Mads Rørvig said in a statement.

FDM, an association for motorists in Denmark, went further in its criticism of the plan.

“It’s far too early and disproportionate to have zero-emissions zones that would exclude 98 percent of Danish motorists,” FDM senior consultant Dennis Lange said in a written comment.

“This is a symbolic policy which will have no measurable effect on pollution,” he added.

READ ALSO: Lower Danish taxes backed for home electric car charging

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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