The Department of Drôme, located in the south-east of France, is to begin traffic restrictions based on the country’s Crit’Air badge system in an attempt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from traffic.

The Crit’Air system involves classifying vehicles based on the type of fuel they consume, date they were produced, number of passengers they carry and their weight, into several categories. More harmful vehicles—such as diesel vehicles and those produced before 2000—are given higher classifications, while those that produce fewer harmful emissions—such as petrol-powered vehicles, hybrids and electric vehicles—are given lower classifications.

The system was first adopted in Drôme on 15 November 2017, and enforced from 27 November, with the intention of higher-classified vehicles eventually being banned from urban centres. Since then, only fines have been levelled at drivers who fail to register their vehicles: €68 for passenger cars, and €135 for trucks and buses; fines not paid within 45 days will increase to €180 and €375, respectively.

However, the Department of Drôme may begin to ban vehicles classified as class 5, covering diesel cars produced before 2000 and diesel trucks produced before 2006. With the department’s air quality reported to be only ‘moderate’ as of this morning, it may consider action to improve the country’s air quality. It is authorised to begin limiting traffic if 300/500 μg / m³ of sulphur dioxide or 200/400 μg / m³ of nitrogen dioxide are produced, and lower the speed on its roads by 20km/h. Today, these limits were exceeded for the first time.

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The Department of Drôme is known as a zone of protection of departmental air (ZPAd); instead of being divided into local regions where traffic restrictions can be placed in particular areas, it is ‘a whole department where traffic restrictions can temporarily apply’, according to the Crit’Air website.

The news comes following the European Commission asking France, along with Germany, to justify their levels of pollution which have exceeded their limits for this time of year, putting pressure on Nicholas Hulot, French minister for the environment.

France has the fourth-highest ceiling of Nitrous Oxide (NOX) production in Europe—its target of 715kt by 2020 is only smaller than those of Germany, Italy and Spain—so there is considerable need to reduce harmful emissions in the country.