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Impact of the LEZ

Why reduce air pollution caused by road transport?

Road transport is responsible for air pollutant emissions which impair air quality. In Brussels, road transport is the main source of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon (BC) particles.

These emissions contribute to the deterioration of air quality. For example, in Brussels, concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exceed the thresholds set by the European Union (for NO2) or recommended by the World Health Organization (for PM2.5), involving health problems for the entire population.

Poor air quality is the cause of premature deaths and major health problems (respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, etc.) and especially affects the most vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly. In 2015, Belgium recorded 7,400 premature deaths due to exposure to particulate matter, 1,500 premature deaths due to exposure to nitrogen dioxide and 220 premature deaths due to ozone exposure, according to the latest report from the European Environment Agency.

How will the LEZ impact air quality?

By gradually banning the most polluting vehicles from driving in the Brussels-Capital Region, the LEZ helps to reduce pollutant emissions from road transport.

The first results of the LEZ are encouraging. In just six months, the number of the oldest diesel vehicles on the road has fallen significantly and the amounts of NOx and PM2.5 emitted by cars on the road have also decreased. These results are detailed in the 2018 evaluation report.

In the medium term, air quality is expected to improve across the Brussels Region as a result of the LEZ. Brussels Environment expects that air quality standards for NO2 will be met at all measuring stations in the region between 2020 and 2025, as explained in the study on the expected effects of the LEZ. This will improve the quality of life and the health of all people in Brussels.

Why do restrictions apply to the oldest vehicles?

On average, older vehicles emit more pollutants that are harmful to health (nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, etc.) than newer vehicles. This is why access to the LEZ is restricted according to the age of the vehicle.

Why are restrictions more stringent for diesel vehicles?

On average, diesel vehicles emit more pollutants (nitrogen oxides in particular) than petrol vehicles. The World Health Organization (WHO) classes exhaust gases from diesel engines as "carcinogenic to humans" because they contribute to an increased risk of lung cancer. For these reasons, access restrictions target diesel vehicles first and foremost.

Does the LEZ prevent global warming?

A distinction must be made between greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2, which contribute to global warming, and emissions of air pollutants such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides or ozone, which are harmful to human health. The purpose of the LEZ is to reduce emissions of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants that have a negative impact on our health. To tackle greenhouse gases, the Brussels Region is implementing other measures, such as grants to insulate housing.

However, when people choose to travel to Brussels other than by private car (on foot, by bike, public transport, shared vehicles), this too will help to drive down CO2 emissions. Moving away from private cars is an effective way of improving air quality, while taking action against climate change.

What other measures are being taken by the Region to improve air quality?

The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region is taking action in a whole range of fields of human activity that involve atmospheric pollutant emissions. This is why the Air Climate Energy Plan was adopted on 2 June 2016.

In addition to the introduction of the LEZ, the plan also sets out measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, air quality monitoring, the generation of energy from renewable sources, as well as measures in consumption patterns and product use.