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Brussels must step up measures to combat air pollution, experts warn

09:42 09/04/2024

Brussels needs stronger measures to combat air pollution from car traffic, an open letter from 140 health and environmental experts has warned.

The Belgian capital has some of the highest levels of air pollution in Europe and the experts say that the low-emission zone legislation, which provides for the phasing out of all combustion engine cars by 2035, should not be relaxed.

They are calling for “an abolition of diesel engines by 2030 and petrol engines by 2035 at the latest on the entire territory of the Brussels region”, Bruzz reports.

Political parties PS and Défi have called for a relaxation of Brussels' low-emissions zone (LEZ) and a delay to the ban on Euro-5 cars within it, although the open letter’s initiator, Pierre Dornier of Les Chercheurs d'Air, said the timing is a coincidence.

“We had been preparing this for a long time,” said Dornier, noting that the letter was released to coincide with World Health Day on 7 April.

The signatories also call for more low-traffic neighbourhoods like the ones already established in the centre of Brussels.

“The reduction in road traffic (by 15 to 20% in one year in the Pentagon neighbourhood) means a reduction in air pollution, but also in noise and the risk of accidents,” the letter reads.

“This also frees up public space, which can then be made greener more easily.”

The signatories also want more pedestrian zones near schools, an incentive to make more use of pick-up points instead of home delivery, more car-sharing and the expansion of the network of cycle lanes.

Addressing politicians, the letter goes on to say: “We – doctors, scientists, health institutions and environmental organisations – ask you, if elected, to do everything in your power to fully combat air pollution in the Brussels region.”

Brussels is one of the most polluting European capitals, according to a ranking by ISGlobal, which conducted a study of 1,000 European cities.

The study found that Brussels ranks eighth out of 858 European cities in terms of nitrogen dioxide pollution and 900 Brussels residents die a premature death as a result.

The open letter was signed by dozens of doctors, along with people from organisations such as cyclists' union Gracq and professors from ULB. They point to London and Paris’ LEZ legislation as an example.

“The fact that there is a divide of competencies between the Brussels municipalities and the region doesn’t help implementing strong clean air policies quickly, but it’s also down to a lack of political courage,” Dornier told The Guardian.

“Sadiq Khan in London and Anne Hidalgo in Paris, for example, are fighting more passionately to improve air quality than many Brussels leaders. They allow ambitious measures to be put in place, maintained and strengthened, even when vocal minorities oppose them.”

Dornier noted that Paris and Amsterdam plan to ban all cars with engines reliant on fossil fuels by 2030, and London extended its LEZ measures even in the face of intense opposition.

“In Brussels, we will have to wait until 2035, at the earliest, to be freed of all the fossil fuel engines, and some politicians are asking to delay the phase-out of diesel engines, or even to cancel it,” said Dornier.

“Our job is to combat air pollution in Brussels. What we want to achieve is give the right to Brussels citizens to breathe air that is not toxic, that doesn’t damage their health.”

Written by Helen Lyons



Fossil fuel cars aren't the only problem. All sorts of pollution is shot into the air by incinerators that still freely pollute. And slowing down the traffic to a crawl and changing the timing on traffic lights has only increased pollution. The city needs to hire specialised engineers to sort out the issues.

Apr 9, 2024 13:40