Implementing Zero-Emission Zones to Mitigate Climate Change

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Implementing Zero-Emission Zones to Mitigate Climate Change

Cities account for over 70% of global CO2 emissions; most come from industrial and transport systems that use vast fossil fuels and rely on infrastructure constructed with carbon-intensive materials (Cutting global, 2022).

Rapid urbanisation and population growth also increase the number of vehicles on the road, producing heat-warming gases like carbon dioxide and methane and pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and ammonia that contribute to poor air quality.

To address the city’s poor air quality and reduce GHG emissions, implementing emerging solutions called Zero Emission Zones is a priority. The ICCT Briefing 2021 report defines a zero-emission zone (SEZ) as an area where only zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), pedestrians, and cyclists are granted unrestricted access. Other cars are prohibited from entering or permitted to enter upon fee payment.

These Zero-Emission Zones are designated small areas between 1.5 and 11 square miles.

According to the Briefing, as of July 2021, several cities globally, mainly in Europe, have either implemented or announced plans to apply ZEZ or near ZEZ. However, only two near-ZEZs and two ZEZ-Fs have been implemented. These include the near-ZEZ in the London Boroughs of Hackney and Islington, the near-ZEZ pilot in the City of London, the ZEZ-F in Rotterdam, and the ZEZ-F pilot in Shenzhen. These are small in scale, and the affected areas range from one street to around 20 square kilometres.

A more recent report from WRI shows that only about a dozen cities worldwide have officially implemented or announced formal proposals to pilot ZEZs. These cities include Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, London and Oxford in England, Brussels in Belgium, Santa Monica and Los Angeles in the United States, Oslo in Norway and Shenzhen, Foshan, Dongguan and Hangzhou in China.

Cities that are early adopters of ZEZ or near ZEZ offer valuable lessons for other cities to follow, such as prioritising trucks or freight vehicles to transition to electric ones over private cars to avoid major pushbacks from the public and to help accelerate the adoption of zero-emissions trucks which has been much slower than electric passenger cars.

In Amsterdam, they first target light-duty trucks and vans because heavy trucks have limited-zero emissions models and are too costly to purchase.

Second, cities need to start with small zones to avoid disrupting the supply of goods and the city’s economic and social activities, as Shenzen did, where this Chinese city started small zones in high-visibility areas.

Third, cities should create measures to support small businesses transitioning to electric vehicles. In Rotterdam, they provided subsidies for small carriers to purchase electric trucks and advice to businesses regarding tax exemption, charging solutions, etc. The city also has a long phase-in period for implementing ZEZ policies, giving businesses at least five years to prepare.

The article acknowledges the possible adverse socio-economic impacts of implementing ZEZs. For example, the high costs of new zero-emission vehicles or access to transportation may impact low-income residents and vulnerable groups living in the zones who need to get to work or school. Small freight carriers may be unable to reach their customers, disrupting the supply of food and other goods.

Lastly, ZEZ should provide additional benefits besides reducing GHG and pollution. For instance, EVs cannot travel long distances compared to fossil-fuelled ones, and their heavy weight means they can carry less weight, leading to more EVs on the road.

To tackle congestion and operational inefficiencies, establishing urban consolidation centres outside the ZEZ can be done so that goods from various origins are bundled into fewer vehicles and distributed to ZEZs. Adopting efficient delivery practices (such as data-driven route planning) can also reduce empty runs.

Overall, zero-emission zones are significant because they have the potential to drive positive environmental, health, economic, and social outcomes by accelerating the transition to cleaner and more sustainable modes of transportation.

Cities already implementing ZEZ or have plans to do so have demonstrated leadership in addressing the challenges that cities face and the effects of climate change and offer some valuable guidance and information to other cities to follow.

Check out the links to the sources below to learn more about the Zero-Emission Zone.


Dasgupta, S., Lall, S, & Wheeler, D. (2022, January 5). Cutting global carbon emissions: where do cities stand? World Bank Blogs. Retrieved from

Xue, L., & Chen, K. (2024, April 25). Zero-emission Zones Are Helping Some Cities Fight Pollution. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from,for%20more%20zero%2Demission%20vehicles.

A global overview of zero-emission zones in cities and their development progress. (2021, August). International Council on Clean Transportation. Retrieved from

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