FAQS

Frequently asked questions about pollution, the restrictions in the low emissions zone (ZBE) and possible alternatives.

Questions about the ZBE
As of 2020, the most polluting vehicles will not be able to access the low emissions zone within Barcelona's ring roads (ZBE Rondes de Barcelona), which is an area covering 95 km2. These vehicles can use the ring roads (the Ronda de Dalt and Ronda Litoral), which are excluded from the restrictions, but all exits from the ring roads providing direct access to the ZBE will be closed to the most polluting vehicles.

The restrictions are currently limited to motorcycles and cars without a DGT environmental label on days of high pollution levels. The measure will be implemented on a permanent basis by 2020, and to all vehicles without the label (motorcycles, cars, lorries, vans and buses) all year round, from 7 am to 8 pm from Monday to Friday.
  • What is the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona?
    The low emissions zone within Barcelona's ring roads (ZBE Rondes de Barcelona) is an area of more than 95 km2 where traffic of the most polluting vehicles is restricted in order to protect the atmosphere, people's health and the environment.

    This area covers the entire municipality of Barcelona (except the Zona Franca and the neighbourhoods of Vallvidrera, Tibidabo and Les Planes), the municipality of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and part of the municipalities of Cornellà de Llobregat, Esplugues de Llobregat and Sant Adrià de Besòs.
  • Does it include the ring roads?
    No. The Ronda de Dalt and the Ronda Litoral are not subject to traffic restrictions. In other words, all vehicles (including the most polluting vehicles that are not eligible for the DGT environmental label) can use them. What the most polluting vehicles may not do is take an exit and travel through the streets of the city that fall within the ZBE
  • When do the restrictions take effect?
    The ZBE Rondes de Barcelona is in force on a temporary basis between 1 December 2017 and 31 December 2019, and restrictions on traffic are only anticipated on days when an NO2 environmental pollution event is declared.

    The traffic restrictions will be permanent as of 1 January 2020, and the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona will be in force from 7 am to 8 pm from Monday to Friday.
  • Why the ZBE?
    The aim of the ZBE is to reduce environmental pollution, and preserve and improve air quality and public health. It is one of the measures being taken to reduce emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, and particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10). The launch of the ZBE aims to reduce emissions of NOx and PM10 by up to 31 % and 39 % respectively.
  • Who do the restrictions affect?
    As of 1 January 2020, the most polluting vehicles, i.e. those that do not have the DGT environmental label (Zero, Eco, C and B) will not be able to travel in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona.

    In specific terms, the vehicles affected by this restriction will be cars (M1) and motorcycles and mopeds (L) that do not have the DGT environmental label. In other words:
    • Pre-Euro 3 standard petrol cars (with pre-2000 license plates) and pre-Euro 4 standard diesel cars (with pre-2005 or 2006 license plates).
    • Motorcycles and mopeds (L) without a label, i.e. those which are pre-Euro 2 standard.
    There will be a 1-year moratorium for professional vehicles (vans, lorries, coaches and buses), even if they do not have the DGT environmental label. This means that as of 1 January 2021, the permanent prohibition on traffic in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona will be rolled out to cover vans (N1), lorries (N2 and N3) and buses (M2 and M3) that do not have the DGT label.
    • Pre-Euro 4 standard lorries, vans and buses (with pre-2005 or 2006 license plates).
    Vehicles for people with reduced mobility (VPRM), emergency services (police, fire services, ambulances) and essential services (medical and funeral services) may travel in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona regardless of whether or not they have a DGT environmental label, provided they are registered in the Metropolitan register.

    The most polluting cars, motorcycles and mopeds which do not have the DGT environmental label will be able to apply to the AMB for a 24-hour traffic permit, up to a maximum of 10 permits per year, using the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles.
  • How can I find out what DGT environmental label my vehicle needs?
    You can check your vehicle's DGT environmental label on the websites of the Directorate General for Traffic (DGT), Barcelona City Council and AMB. Enter your registration number to find out if the traffic restrictions in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona affect you.
  • My vehicle needs an environmental label, but I don't have the sticker. Where can I apply for it?
    Owners of vehicles with a B, C, ECO or Zero emissions environmental label who have the appropriate identification label can purchase them at post offices or through an approved agent. You can also apply for one through your mechanic, if they are a member of the Gremi de Tallers de Reparació d'Automòbils de Barcelona  [Barcelona Guild of Automobile Repair Workshops]. Consult the DGT website or call 060 for more information.
  • Is it mandatory to attach the DGT environmental label to the vehicle? Can I be fined if I don't have it?
    Attaching the label is not mandatory, but it helps local police forces in Barcelona and the other municipalities when they are carrying out manual checks. So having it is advisable.

    Drivers travelling without the DGT label on their vehicle may be stopped by agents inside the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona. In these cases, the agents will check the vehicle's documentation and the license plate, and will check whether it is subject to traffic restrictions. 
  • How are vehicles checked in the ZBE?
    From 1 January 2020 onwards, this will take place automatically using cameras that will check license plates against the appropriate DGT environmental label, and with the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles.

    The automatic monitoring system, which has over 100 license plate-reading cameras at various points in the metropolitan area, will give the local authorities details of the vehicles identified in their territory, which are therefore subject to penalties.
  • What are the penalties?
    As of 1 January 2020, failure to comply with the regulations stipulated in the municipal ordinances of the municipalities affected by the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona will be subject to fines ranging between 200 and 1,800 euros, depending on whether it is a minor, serious or very serious offence.

    The penalties may be increased by 30 % compared to the minimum amounts for repeat offenders. There will be a three-month period of adaptation to the regulations (January-April).
  • Are there any exemptions or temporary permits?
    Yes. Barcelona Metropolitan Area is launching the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona, which is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019.

    This digital register will centralise the exemptions, and the Regulation that covers it specifically determines 5 categories of permits:
    1. Vehicles for people with reduced mobility (VPRM): this affects VPRM drivers and VPRM collective transport.
    2. Service vehicles: this affects vehicles that provide medical, funeral, civil protection and firefighting services, the police and Spanish security forces.
    3. Permits for temporary activities: this affects all types of vehicles providing specific services that require temporary access to the ZBE, such as transport services with special permits and special vehicles, and vehicles with permits from municipal councils for specific activities (roadworks or activities on the public highway).
    4. Foreign vehicles: this affects foreign vehicles that meet the technological requirements for access to the ZBE.
    5. Daily permits: these affect all types of vehicles that require temporary access to the ZBE.
  • And what about taxis?
    They are also subject to the restrictions. Taxes are generally very clean (more than 30 % of the vehicles are already hybrid, electric or gas) and it is estimated that the restriction will not affect these vehicles.

    Using its competences, AMB, working through the Metropolitan Taxi Institute (IMET) will continue to maintain its firm and determined commitment to the environmental improvement of the region's taxis. The total number of environmentally efficient vehicles (hybrid and gas) increased from 1 % to more than 30% between 2007 and 2016. The metropolitan commitment to clean mobility is aimed at reducing at least 50 % of the taxis running solely on diesel operating in the metropolitan area by 2020, and the proportion of taxis running solely on diesel should not exceed 33 % by 2025. To achieve this, the use of diesel vehicles is no longer approved.
  • What about vehicles with foreign license plates?
    All the vehicles travelling in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona are subject to the same restrictions, except for vehicles which are temporarily or permanently exempt.

    In order to drive inside the ZBE, all vehicles with foreign license plates must request a permit beforehand from the AMB Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles. Vehicles with official approval equivalent to the DGT environmental labels will obtain a permanent traffic permit.

    The most polluting vehicles which are not covered by any DGT environmental label must apply to the AMB for an extraordinary one-day traffic permit (24 hours), and a maximum of 10 days per year will be permitted.

    Using this metropolitan system, vehicles with a foreign license plate will be subject to the same regulations as other vehicles.
  • Why does my vehicle have no DGT label if I take it through vehicle emissions checks and MOTs?
    In order to be considered roadworthy, vehicles must first comply with the European Union regulations regarding official approval and registration at all times. Among other technical issues, these regulations establish limits for emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere. The compulsory regular MOT inspections check that each vehicle's emissions meet the originally approved limits, or, in other words, they have not changed since the vehicle left the factory, among other issues.

    The pollutant emission limits for new vehicles that are officially approved and registered in the European Union have been significantly reduced in recent years, thanks to improvements in anti-pollution technologies. This means that although they can successfully pass the emissions checks carried out during mandatory regular MOT inspections, older vehicles had emissions limits that were more lax than those that are currently applied to newer vehicles, and they may therefore have potentially higher emissions levels.

    Some very old vehicles, such as those with diesel engines and with license plates prior to 1 January 1980, are exempt from emissions checks.
  • Do the measures restricting the most polluting vehicles discriminate against economically disadvantaged groups?
    Restricting the most polluting vehicles affects people with higher incomes, since they have more vehicles and their lifestyle makes them more dependent on private vehicles. The 2016 survey on mobility on working days shows that households in lower income neighbourhoods have fewer cars (including old ones) and use their cars and motorcycles less often than those in higher income neighbourhoods, who have more cars (including old ones) and use cars and motorcycles to travel more frequently. 
  • Can I use my vehicle for people with reduced mobility?
    Yes. Vehicles for people with reduced mobility (VPRM) are one of the exempt categories, and therefore have permission to travel, regardless of whether or not they have an environmental label. The owner of the vehicle must first register it in the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles in the AMB low emissions zone.
  • Can I drive my vintage vehicle after 2019?
    No. Vehicles deemed to be vintage are subject to the same restrictions as other vehicles. If you wish to drive one, you must apply for a special 1-day permit (for 24 hours) in the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other vehicles authorised in the AMB low emissions zone, up to a maximum of 10 permits per year.
  • What alternatives is the government offering me if my vehicle does not have a label?
    The green card T-verda is a transport pass that provides three years of free public transport on all ATM transport services in exchange for sending a highly polluting vehicle for scrap. This is a free public transport pass for the entire integrated metropolitan area (6 zones). In the 36 metropolitan municipalities, it is administered through the AMB Information service. The Government of Catalonia covers the other municipalities using the T-verda.

    People who deregister a polluting vehicle and send it for scrap and do not acquire any new vehicle for the duration of three years that the metropolitan green card is valid are eligible. The beneficiary must be an adult, legally resident within the area covered by the Barcelona Metropolitan Transport Authority, and have scrapped a polluting vehicle he/she owned that was subject to vehicle tax in a municipality in the scheme. It must be renewed every year. The cardholder may transfer entitlement to the card on one single occasion to a substitute holder, who may be any member of his/her household. The card is issued and renewed at no cost at the customer service centres provided by the AMB for residents of the 36 metropolitan municipalities and the Association of Municipalities with Urban Transport (AMTU) elsewhere in the area covered by the ATM.

    Vehicles scrapped up to 6 months before the application for the T-verda are eligible. The eligible vehicles are:
    • Diesel cars with pre-2006 license plates.
    • Petrol cars with pre-2000 license plates.
    • Motorcycles with pre-1/7/2004 license plates.
    • Mopeds with pre-17/6/2002 license plates.
    More information and the application procedure
  • What about professional vehicles that do not have the DGT environmental label?
    The regulatory decrees of the ZBE propose to give a 1 year extension to professional vehicles transporting passengers (more than 8 seats, plus the driver's one) and goods that do not have a DGT environmental label. Those vehicles are N1, N2, N3 (vans and lorries) categories and buses (M2 and M3).

    See categories according to the EU
  • What do I do if I can only use a private vehicle to travel around?
    If your only alternative is to travel in private vehicles, consider sharing the least polluting car possible with other people travelling along the same route as you: you will reduce pollutant emissions, and your journey will be more pleasant and cheaper. Combine it with public transport whenever you can.

    The public transport network in the city of Barcelona and the metropolitan area is undergoing constant improvements to meet the population's needs. Consult opportunities for travelling by public transport via the municipal website: Com s'hi va [How to get there], on the AMB website Com s'hi va [Where do you want to go?] or the platform of the Government of Catalonia Mou-te [Moving about].
  • What grants are available for less polluting mobility?
    Various government bodies offer several alternatives to encourage more sustainable mobility, with grants for purchasing low emissions vehicles; discounts on taxes, tolls and other fees linked to mobility and support for fleets.
  • What can I do to reduce pollution?
    Whenever you can, travel on foot, by bicycle or by non-motorised transport: not only because of the health benefits that it provides, but also because of the benefits for the city as a whole, since it means there will be one less vehicle causing air pollution, noise and traffic jams.

    If you're walking or cycling at rush hour, look for alternative routes with less traffic: this will reduce your journey time, and the air you breathe will be cleaner.

    Use public transport rather than a private car whenever you can, or share a less polluting car with other users that travel along the same route as you.
  • Which other cities have a ZBE/LEZ?
    More than two hundred cities across Europe have now established low emissions zones in their urban centres, where access to more heavily polluting vehicles is restricted. Heavily populated areas in Europe, such as Brussels, London, Paris, Milan or Rotterdam, have high volumes of traffic and as a result, have very high levels of air pollution.

    Some examples:
    • Brussels: 161 km2 (19 municipalities), since 2019.
    • London:  "Low Emision Zone" 1.580 km2, des de 2017. Ultra Low Emision Zone: 21 km2, since 2019.
    • Madrid: "Madrid Central" 4.7 km2, since 2019.

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Questions about air pollution
Air pollution affects the health of citizens of the Barcelona metropolis. Air pollution kills more than 500,000 people per year in Europe. 
  • Does air pollution affect public health?
    Yes, air pollution has a significant impact on the health of all the metropolitan area's citizens. While our air quality is slowly improving, air pollution remains the greatest threat to environmental health in the metropolitan area. According to the latest report from the European Environment Agency (EEA, 2018), atmospheric pollution is directly responsible for more than 500,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.
  • How good is the air in the metropolitan area?
    The levels of pollution in the metropolitan area exceed the maximum pollution thresholds for NO2 and PM10 established by the EU and the World Health Organization, and this is a major threat to public health.
  • What effects does pollution have on people's health?
    According to the European Environment Agency and the World Health Organization, pollution affects health in terms of: effects on the central nervous system (PM), asthma and reduced pulmonary function (PM), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (PM), effects on the reproductive system (PM), effects on the liver, spleen and blood (NO2), lung cancer (NO2 and BaP) and cardiovascular effects (PM, SO3 and O3), among others. 
  • What do the scientists say?
    High levels of air pollution thresholds have direct effects on people's health, which the scientific community has estimated at over 3,000 premature deaths per year in the metropolitan area. In fact, the most recent report on the state of health in Barcelona was presented last November, and it stated that lung cancer is now the premier cause of premature death among women. It also said that 70 % of the population was exposed to levels of NO2 higher than those recommended by WHO and the EU.

    The evidence linking health and pollution has increased exponentially in recent years. In more specific terms, studies relate air pollution to various pathologies:
    • A study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) says that expanding bicycle lane networks in cities could provide considerable benefits for health and the economy. More specifically, expanding bike lanes in European cities could prevent up to 10,000 premature deaths. In Barcelona, 248 premature deaths would be prevented every year if all the city's streets had a cycling infrastructure: Study on the expansion of bicycle lanes
    • According to a study by the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), the Hospital del Mar and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), high levels of pollution increase the risk of an atherothrombotic stroke by 20%: Conclusions of the study
    • Experts in the field of cardiovascular diseases at the Vall d'Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus and the CIBER Campus (CIBERCV) carried out a study that shows that on the days when air pollution levels are at their highest in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, there are more heart attacks: Pollution and heart attacks
    • The Lancet Commission on pollution and health reported that pollution caused 23,987 deaths in Spain in 2015, which means 1 death out of every 17: Full article
    • A large-scale epidemiological study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and the American Cancer Society links some air pollutants with mortality due to kidney, bladder and colorectal cancer. The research tracked more than 600,000 adults for 22 years (from 1982 to 2004) and related mortality due to 29 types of cancer with residential exposure to three environmental pollutants: PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3): Cancer and air pollution
    • The most recent study by ISGlobal in Barcelona shows that an increase in PM10 of 5 μg/m3 in air breathed leads to the loss of almost one year of life (Environment International, 2016): Relationship between life expectancy and pollution
    • The BREATHE Project found a negative effect on the development of children experiencing pollution in schools, and higher rates of hyperactivity and attention deficit among adolescents (Environment International, 2016): BREATHE project
    • Air pollution is the cause of several cerebrovascular pathologies such as strokes and cardiovascular accidents (WHO), degenerative diseases (Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2015) and various mental health problems (JAMA Psychiatry, January 2013).
    • There is plenty of evidence for its effects on the respiratory system, including lung cancer (WHO), pneumonia (WHO), various pulmonary disorders (Thorax, 2009, 64) and chronic lung obstructions (WHO).
    • Various studies have been carried out on the impact on the reproductive system (CREAL-ISGlobal) and on coronary heart conditions (Circulation, 2010; WHO). 

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Questions about permits
The Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other vehicles authorised to travel in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona.
  • What is the Metropolitan register?
    The Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles is an online tool to provide vehicle owners with a permit to use their vehicles inside the low emission zone (LEZ) of the Barcelona ring roads (ZBE Rondes de Barcelona).

    All vehicles exempt from traffic restrictions within the ZBE (vehicles for people with reduced mobility [VPRM], emergency services such as police, firefighters and ambulances, and essential services such as medical and funeral service) regardless of their DGT environmental label, are required to register.

    In addition, owner of vehicles wishing to apply for a 24-hour traffic permit, as well as foreign vehicles, with or without official approval, must also register to apply for the relevant traffic permits.
  • What types of permits and exemptions are available?
    There are currently five types of permits included in the Regulations:
    1. People with reduced mobility: for vehicles transporting people with reduced mobility, in both private and collective transport. 
    2. Emergency and essential services: vehicles providing medical, funeral, civil protection and firefighting services, the police and Spanish security forces.
    3. Permits for temporary activities: for vehicles undertaking special activities with temporary municipal licenses.
    4. Foreign vehicles: for vehicles registered abroad that meet the requirements for traffic in the ZBE.
    5. Daily permits: for occasional permits and for all kinds of vehicles not offered by other permits. A maximum of 10 day's road use in the ZBE is permitted per year.
  • Can I drive my polluting vehicle occasionally?
    Vehicles affected by the restrictions are entitled to daily permits. Owners may apply for up to 10 permits per year, which will enable them to use the roads in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona on the chosen date.

    This option will not be available for polluting vehicles acquired after 1 January 2020.
  • How can I request a daily or bonus 10 permit?
    Registration for the ZBE metropolitan permit is a one-off procedure. To register, the owner of the vehicle must send an application form to the Metropolitan register.

    After the application has been accepted, you can select the days for your vehicle's permit using the register website until 11.59 pm on the day before.

    Until the Metropolitan register becomes operational, there is an option to carry out a pre-registration procedure, which will keep you informed and facilitate subsequent registration.
  • How can I request a permit for a vehicle for people with reduced mobility?
    The following groups are entitled to VPRM permits:
    • Vehicle for people with reduced mobility: Vehicles owned by people with a level of disability of 33 % or over, and who exceed the mobility threshold. Only one application for this type of permit per applicant will be allowed.
    • Collective transport for people with reduced mobility: vehicles adapted to transport people with reduced mobility. They must be registered under the use criteria classification for the vehicle for transporting PRM (use code 01 on the vehicle's technical specifications).
    You can register and apply to include the vehicle in the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles. Until the register's official start date, there is an option to carry out a pre-registration process that will keep you informed and facilitate subsequent processing.
  • How can I request a permit for essential service vehicles?
    Vehicles that provide medical, funeral, civil protection and firefighting services, the police and Spanish security forces can request ZBE Rondes de Barcelona traffic permits, which will allow them to travel in it on any day while the permit is valid.

    Registration must be made by the legal representative of the public authority responsible for those services, or the vehicles must be registered with the DGT and classified with the criteria of use or service reflecting special services.

    You can register and apply to include the vehicle in the Metropolitan register of foreign vehicles and other authorised vehicles. Until the register's official start date, there is an option to carry out a pre-registration process that will keep you informed and facilitate subsequent processing.
  • How can I request a permit for a foreign vehicle?
    Vehicles registered outside Spain are not classified according to criteria of the DGT environmental label.

    Vehicles that can prove that they meet the equivalent technological requirements may apply for a permanent permit:
    • Motorcycles and mopeds and other category L light vehicles classified as Euro 2 or higher.
    • Cars (M1) classified as electric, petrol Euro 3 or higher, or diesel Euro 4 or higher.
    When the Municipal register of foreign vehicles is available, it will be necessary to attach the vehicle's documentation, showing the owner, the registration, as well as the type of fuel, the Euro level and the date of first registration. If you do not have the official documentation showing the information about the Euro level, you must demonstrate compliance with emissions levels of NOx and equivalent particles by means of an official document.

    Vehicles that do not meet the environmental requirements for traffic in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona may request one-day permits (up to 10 per year).
  • What happens if I have to use a vehicle for an emergency?
    Under exceptional circumstances, in medical emergencies, you can apply for a daily permit in the 3 days after the vehicle has been on the road. The vehicle may be subject to a penalty, but you can appeal with documentary proof of a medical emergency and confirmation of the daily permit.
  • Will there be any cost for permits?
    The tax ordinance of the AMB considers two types of permits: free of charge permits (€ 0) and permits with a specific cost.
    Free of charge permits include VPRM (vehicles for people with reduced mobility), service vehicles (medical, funeral, civil protection and firefighting services, the police and Spanish security forces) and temporary permits for activities or special vehicles. Although they don't have to pay the tax, they must register in the ZBE Permits Register in order to avoid fines.
    Permits with a specific cost include two categories. They consider low income groups and they may also be combined:
    • Daily permits, up to a maximum of 10 permits per year, apply for those vehicles that don't have a DGT environmental label. They have an associated cost of € 2. They allow to move inside the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona. Nevertheless, residents with low incomes living inside the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona may benefit from bonuses. In this case, the bonus for low income residents is € 1 for the owners of the most polluting vehicles (L, M1 and N1 without DGT environmental label). The recipients of the bonus shall prove a family income under twice the current Public Multiple Effect Income Indicator (IPREM). Daily permits will be completely free for those proving an income lower than the current IPREM plus a 10%
    • The second category refers to permits for foreign vehicles, which are not regulated by the DGT labels. In this case, foreign vehicles must pay € 5 to cover administrative expenses resulting from the verification of the compliance with the technological requirements of Spanish vehicles. The administrative procedure will resolve whether the vehicle meets the requirements and, thus, if the vehicle would be granted a DGT label. If so, it will be able to access and move freely in the ZBE Rondes de Barcelona. When the vehicle does not meet de abovementioned requirements, the owner shall request daily permits, which cost € 2 each, up to a maximum of 10 permits per year.

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