Vienna Greens want cars banned over fine dust

Cars lacking eco-friendly engine systems should be kept out from Vienna form 2013, a Green Party official has suggested.

Rüdiger Maresch said today (Fri) owners of cars with excessive carbon emissions could be blocked from entering the federal capital in less than two years by creating a new motorised traffic rules system. The Vienna Greens traffic issues spokesman explained the city could introduce orders on cars’ engines separating them into groups. The usage of vehicles which fail to meet certain criteria could be prohibited from 2013, he suggested.

Now all eyes are on the city’s environment councillor, Social Democrat (SPÖ) Ulli Sima. The former Green Party member expressed doubts whether the introduction of such a system made sense. Sima claimed cities like German capital Berlin failed to substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions and fine dust volumes this way. She said yesterday that a study would be carried out next year to identify possibilities how the environmental situation in Vienna – which has 1.7 million residents – could be improved.

Maresch’s appeal comes shortly after Vienna experienced five days of excessive fine dust rates in a row. Environmentalists criticised at the same time that the European Union’s (EU) limit on fine dust matter was set too high anyway. EU regulations order member states to ensure the volume of the substance is kept below 50 micrograms per cubic metre. Especially inhabitants of Graz, Linz and Vienna – where the SPÖ forms a coalition with the Green Party – have been subjected to high fine dust amounts in the air in the past two weeks.

Meteorologists explained that the current weather condition of steadily cool temperatures, little wind, no rainfall or exchange of air layers posed ideal circumstances for fine dust to settle in industrialised areas. Car traffic, coal and wood heating and smoking are generally considered as the main factors behind high fine dust figures.

People subjected to large amounts of particulate matter face a reduction of their life expectancy and higher risks of suffering diseases affecting their lungs and heart. Children growing up in affected regions can develop breathing problems. Their lungs are often smaller and less efficient than those of youngsters growing up in the countryside where the volume of fine dust is generally lower.

Federal People’s Party (ÖVP) Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich angered regional lawmakers earlier this week by claiming that fighting the issue was something provincial politicians had to deal with. He claimed that a law which was passed thanks to his initiative provided Austria’s nine provincial parliaments with more rights as far as the fight against the problem was regarded.

Berlakovich explained that the bill passed in 2010 enabled provincial decision-makers to set up speed reductions, driving bans and other measures. Sima reacted by claiming that federal politicians “totally failed” in setting up workable solutions against fine dust threats. The Labour Chamber (AK) also hit out at the environment minister. It revealed that the minister could introduce traffic-free days and less drastic regulations in the battle against fine dust too, according to the law in effect since last year.