Amsterdam takes first step toward banning all gas and diesel vehicles

Countries around the world are continuing to present long-term plans to ban polluting vehicles, while cities, too, are pressing ahead with their own more immediate efforts to improve the local quality of the air.

Take Amsterdam. The Dutch city, popular with tourists from around the world, recently announced plans to ban all gas and diesel vehicles from its streets after 2030. The goal will be reached in a series of steps beginning next year when diesel cars built before 2005 will be prohibited from taking to the streets of the capital city. From 2022, public buses that belch out pollutants will be banned from entering the city center, and three years after that, gas and diesel mopeds will be banned, as will similarly powered pleasure boats that ply Amsterdam’s famous waterways.

While it’s true that many people use bicycles to get around the compact city, the roads — and waterways — are still filled with fume-spewing motors, leading to claims by local health officials that exposure to the dirty air has the potential to reduce residents’ life expectancy by more than a year.

In comments reported by Reuters, Sharon Dijksma, the city’s traffic councillor, said: “Pollution often is a silent killer and is one of the greatest health hazards in Amsterdam.”

The city said it wants to to replace all gas and diesel vehicles with emission-free, electric- or hydrogen-powered alternatives from 2030 under its Clean Air Action Plan.

But as the Guardian points out, such an ambition presents multiple challenges. First, as many as 23,000 charging stations will need to be installed by 2025 to give the project a realistic chance of succeeding. Amsterdam currently has only 3,000 charging points in place around the city.

And second, people will need to be able to afford the new, cleaner vehicles, a fact not lost on the Rai Association, a local automotive lobby group that says the new rules will leave some local residents “out in the cold” and make Amsterdam “a city of the rich.”

Amsterdam is the latest in a growing number of European cities to take action against fossil fuel vehicles. Paris, for example, enacted a law in 2016 that banned cars made before 1997 from entering the city during busy times of the day, while last year the Spanish capital, Madrid, created a low-emissions zone banning older gas and diesel cars.

National governments, too, have been announcing long-term goals to ban polluting vehicles in the years ahead, though environmental campaigners are pressing for such action to be taken more urgently.

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