Driving in the right direction

30 June 2022

After months of intense negotiations, EU member states reached an agreement to ban new fossil-fuelled cars and vans in just over a decade.

Following on from a similar decision by the European Parliament in early June, EU countries agreed to draft legislation that will prohibit the sale of new gasoline or diesel vehicles from 2035. For the legislative package to turn into law, however, national governments still need to hash out a final agreement with the European Parliament.

The ban is part of a wider set of measures – known as the Fit for 55 package – to cut greenhouse gases by 55% in 2030.

Eurocities has been calling for a full stop on fossil-fuelled mobility, in line with these efforts, to make cities more liveable places, as emphasised in a recent position paper.

With transport accounting for 25% of all toxic gases in the EU, the agreement promises to curb the emissions of a sector that hasn’t decreased its pollution levels since the 1990s. If finally approved, the legislative package would propel the EU toward the 2050 climate neutrality goal.

For European cities, the decision is a major step in the creation of a healthier, sustainable environment: banning fossil-fuelled cars and vans will reduce toxic emissions in urban areas and foster the use of cleaner vehicles.

Over 74% of urban residents are still exposed to harmful levels of air pollutants at concentration levels above the recommended World Health Organisation guidelines.

With emissions from motorised traffic a significant threat to public health, social equality and life quality in urban areas, clearing the air is necessary to safeguard inhabitant’ wellbeing. Studies show that low-income residents are most exposed to toxic emissions so reducing pollution will also help cities fight inequality.

In addition, the boom of e-commerce in recent years has led to an increase in delivery vehicles in inner cities, so the ban on new combustion engine trucks will help lower toxic emissions arising from urban logistics challenges.

“The agreement is a step in the right direction. With cities in the EU reducing the role of cars, it is paramount to ensure that the remaining vehicles are as clean as possible. Thanks to the member states’ decision, we are getting closer to achieving this goal”, says Thomas Lymes, Policy Advisor for Mobility at Eurocities.

Indoor stop © ElectriCity Gothenburg

A wider strategy

However, relying on cleaner cars is not enough for cities.

The reduction of toxic exhaust gases is a piece of a larger puzzle that includes sustainable, active, and digital mobility. Local authorities’ Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans also include zero-emission public transport,  active modes of transport, alternative fuels infrastructures, and shared mobility.

Cities, for example, support a modal shift from private cars by making active transport modes more convenient. Other measures include the creation of low-emission zones and congestion charges.

Later in the year, the European Commission is expected to suggest new measures to decarbonise trucks and buses. With public transport playing a starring role in the sustainable cities of the future, the upcoming proposal promises to further advance municipalities’ environmental ambitions.





Thomas Lymes Policy Advisor, Mobility & Air Quality
Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer