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Low Emission Zones France & Europe Rules and Updates

by Chris Meeten

In the last article that we wrote about LEZ (Low Emission Zones) in France, we wrote about what you as a driving visitor had to do when applying for a Crit'Air Sticker, how to apply for one and to make sure that you complied to the law when driving in an LEZ area or city.

As 2020 draws nearer there are some changes and new LEZ's that are about to come into force in the new year.

The following article will provide you with this information and make sure that you are fully aware of the new rules.

Why new environmental zones?

Since 2010, France has been regularly threatened by the European Commission for non-compliance with the air quality directive. To comabt this France introduced the Crit'Air system in 2016, to help lower the nitrogen oxide levels that are still above the legally prescribed limit of 40µg/m³ in many cities in 2019.

As a result, France was condemned by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 24.10.2019 and if France does not want to face financial penalties, new measures must be quickly applied to combat any legal threat.

At the same time, 2019 was marked by long and recurrent air pollution episodes in some cities and departments, especially ozone pollution peaks during the summer. Because of this, driving bans were imposed in 10 cities such as Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Strasbourg and in the department of Isère.

This has forced France to quickly deal with transport-related pollution by strengthening existing frames.

Key to the naming of Zones otherwise known as LEZ's


- weather dependent zones established in major French cities and municipalities will continue to be developed in 2020 and require increasing attention from the local and European commercial and touristic transport.The main reason for this is that the status of access rights to the environmental zones can change within 24 hours and driving bans can be applied for otherwise valid Crit’Air vignettes. This means that previously authorised vignette categories will suddenly be banned from traffic, and high fines and immediate driving bans can be imposed.


- permanently valid and are mainly established in larger cities also need attention in 2020, as they will not only be renamed ZFE zones (Zone à faibles émissions) from 2020, but they will be often expanded and their rules will be strengthened.

The introduciton of new ZFE "Low Emission Zones" in 2020

The Mobility Act presented by the government in 2018 aims at facilitating the development of environmental zones in France. The ZCR (Zones à Circulation Restreinte) are now called ZFE "Zones with Low Emissions", corresponding to the English term LEZ "Low Emission Zones".

These new ZFE  zones will be implemented in cities where the legally prescribed limit for particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are exceeded. Currently 15 cities have committed to establish a LEZ or strengthen the rules of the existing one, if possible by the end of 2020.

To support the establishment of low-emission zones, the French public agency ADEME, in collaboration with the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, is to finance more than 1.3 million euros in studies in 18 cities to assess the opportunity and feasibility of a low-emission zone or help set them up. These cities include Montpellier, Nancy and Toulon.
Here are some examples of future LEZs:

1. Grenoble

The current zone will cover 28 municipalities from February 2020. It is also planned to gradually exclude the most polluting delivery vehicles from the traffic: ban of the Crit'Air 4 sticker on 01.07.2020; 01.07.2022 for the Crit'Air 3 sticker and 01.07.2025 for vehicles with the Crit'Air 2 sticker.

2. Lille

The zone will enter into force from 2021 with a one-year transitional period granted. Cars and heavy goods vehicles without a sticker or with Crit'Air 5 and 4 stickers will no longer be allowed to drive in the defined area permanently (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

3. Lyon

From 01.01.2020, heavy goods vehicles and light commercial vehicles without a Crit'Air sticker or with a Crit'Air 4/5 sticker will no longer be allowed to drive in. The date on which the vehicles with a Crit'Air'3 sticker will be banned has not yet been defined.

To make controls more efficient and automated, the Mobility Act also provides for the installation of intelligent cameras that can scan car registration numbers. The Metropolitan Area of Paris (Grand Paris) and Strasbourg have already announced their intention to implement this system in the future.

To check out the future French enviromental zones click here

Temporary driving bans

Temporary driving bans became quite common in 2019 as a response to the numerous air pollution peaks. In Marseille, for example, the system presented by the prefect in June was activated for more than 10 consecutive days. In Paris and Lille, the situation was also taken seriously, so that prefects have activated driving bans from the first day of the air pollution peak or even before it occurs.

Temporary driving bans will now be systematised and automatically activated in the event of an air pollution peak. The departments within the region “Pays-de-la-Loire” have announced that they will activate it in the future and have already advised drivers to order the Crit'Air sticker. The cities of Avignon and Nancy will also determine the rules of their future temporary zones.

A list of cities, municipalities, departments and regions planning to expand or introduce new permanent and temporary environmental zones by the end of 2020 or 2021 click here

What's new for the Crit'Air sticker?

The Crit'Air system has inspired Frances Swiss neighbours. Also faced with the recurrent problem of air pollution, the canton of Geneva has adopted a driving ban frame based on the French model and has developed a new sticker similar to the Crit'Air one.

Stick'Air Vignette

From 15.01.2020, the authorities will thus be able to ban the most polluting vehicles in some parts of the canton in the event of an air pollution peak (or before it occurs). For vehicles that do not have the Stick'Air sticker, the French one (Crit'Air) will also be recognised in Geneva and you may drive with this.

Its possible that the cities of Basel and Zurich, which are also keen to improve air quality, follow in Geneva's footsteps?

Find more information about Geneva here.

Visit Green-Zones.eu

For futher information and indepth guidance along with how to apply for LEZ stickers for countries in Europe visit


You can also get the Green-Zones App for tourists and private travellers by visiting this page here.

Overview of the fines in European environmental zones

In every environment zone, which has been set up in a country in Europe, fines are imposed when the entry restrictions are not observed or when an environmental zone is entered without the valid correspondingly badge. Since generally in the first few years after establishing an environmental zone the entry of various emission classes or the colour of the environmental badge is changed, the driver of the vehicle should first assure himself whether they have a corresponding valid badge / sticker in the right colour. Yet, if a violation is found by the police or other official bodies, some heavy fines can be issued. Below an overview of the then due fines in the various countries.

Germany/ Blue Badge / Nothing until today

Germany/ Umwelt-Plakette / 80,00-108,50 Euro

Germany/ E-Plakette / Willingly

Tschechien / Registration Prague 100 Euro    

France Crit-’Air Vignette / 68,00-375,00 Euro    

Danmark / EcoSticker / 20.000,00 DKK (2.700,00 Euro)   

Austria / Umwelt-Pickerl / 80,00-2.180,00 Euro

UK / £500 - £1000 (London) Click here for more info

In the above the given fines are often given as a "from-to" amount. This is because the national legislature can distinguish if a fine is paid immediately in cash on site or whether the fine is sent in writing in an administrative procedure and then needs to be paid via bank transfer. As a rule, a cash payment on the spot is the "cheaper" variant.

Disclaimer: All infromation at the time or writing was correct. Michelin Travel Partner and Michelin Group take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in the article.
Please check with the relevant countries authorities regarding LEZ before making your journey


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