Working Paper

Planning and implementation of low- and zero-emission zones in cities

This paper aims to aid cities in planning and implementing low- and zero-emission zones by sharing lessons learned from Europe and North America. The study identifies underlying legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms, reviews incentives to encourage the transition to zero-emission vehicles and other modes of mobility and summarizes key actions for cities to consider when planning low- and zero-emission zones.

The study finds that legal frameworks at the national level can allow cities to establish enforceable low- and zero-emission zones. However, even without a national framework, cities can establish such zones by using local and regional laws and voluntary pilot projects.

Careful design and implementation of these zones can improve equity. Exemptions and financial incentives targeting impacted communities and small businesses could enable an equitable transition. Pilot projects with an equity focus can raise public awareness and support before fully implementing a low- or zero-emission zone.

Public communication and consultation are critical in every stage of planning and implementation of low- and zero-emission zones. To ensure public support and address concerns, cities have worked with experts, local organizations, and businesses to raise awareness about their benefits. Measuring and publishing data on pollution from internal combustion engine vehicles can illustrate the potential health benefits of zero-emission zones.

*This paper was updated on 17 November 2023 to clarify details related to plans and goals for Montreal, Quebec, Canada.