A recent evaluation of the 2011 plan ‘Clean Air for Amsterdam’ shows that the current measures have made Amsterdam’s air cleaner. The generic measures taken until now have ensured that by 1 January 2015, almost every point in Amsterdam will comply with the European standard for particulate matter and NO2. However, unless policy is further amended, the NO2 norm at some four to seven locations on busy main roads will not be met on time, but rather between 2018 and 2021. The City Council has therefore now decided to take new, location-specific measures and to continue to press upon the government and EU for more effective source policy.

Effective measures taken by Amsterdam have made the capital’s air increasingly cleaner, but progress is generally much slower than was expected in 2011. With the continuing economic crisis, fewer people are buying new, cleaner vehicles. The second problem is bigger: emissions from Euro 4 and Euro 5 diesel vehicles appear to be substantially greater than the experts expected just a few years ago. It has recently become increasingly clear that vehicles that fulfil European requirements in test situations have much greater emissions in reality.

Additional measures, in particular location-specific measures, and source policies

The Council is committed to the following measures to improve air quality in the last four to seven Amsterdam bottlenecks and meet EU norms in 2015:

  • No new parking permits for the dirtiest vehicles (pre-2005 diesels and pre-July 1992 petrol-powered vehicles). Current, existing parking permits will remain in effect.

  • A grant of approximately € 500 for giving up the dirtiest vehicles (pre-2005 diesels and pre-July 1992 petrol vehicles).

  • Agreements with the business community on upgrading their vehicle fleets, in exchange for compensation payment to those that ban the dirtiest commercial vans from their fleets.

  • Ease the traffic flow at bottlenecks, for example by using different traffic signal strategies, re-routing certain traffic flows, a green wave, or modifying the queuing configuration.

  • Reinforcement of the electric vehicle recharging infrastructure with 1000 recharging points (recharging points are only installed for new electric vehicles that replace a petrol or diesel vehicle. This prevents adding to the pressure on parking).

  • At the council’s request, the Amsterdam business community is designing a substantial package of supporting measures. Amsterdam will support any specific and well thought-out measures with financial incentives (subsidies and grants) and amended regulations (to eliminate barriers).

Extra government measures and European source policy

For the norms to be achieved, additional government measures and an effective European source policy are crucial. Three-quarters of the pollution comes from outside the municipality; Amsterdam can only exert influence on about a quarter of the pollution. The capital and other large cities therefore continue to urge the government and the EU to support local measures, but especially to take further generic measures such as the abolition of both old-timer exemptions and fiscal penalties for company car drivers. The cities and the government are already preparing a joint plan for additional action.

No environmental zones for commercial and passenger vehicles

It is estimated that the introduction of other generic Amsterdam measures, such as environmental zones for commercial and passenger vehicles, would enable the norms to be fulfilled only three to six months earlier, but at great social cost. Thousands of Amsterdam residents and businesses would have to replace their vehicle prematurely, while the costs for the municipality (compensation arrangements) could run to € 30 million. A better option in these financially difficult times is an end-of-life arrangement for the dirtiest vehicles, coupled with an incentive for the purchase of clean vehicles.

Clean Air for Amsterdam

Amsterdam is doing the maximum to clean up its air. In 2011, the responsible councillor Eric Wiebe was the first in the Netherlands to calculate the effect of all local air quality measures, and to select those measures that yield the cleanest air per Euro invested. These measures are stated in the ‘Clean Air for Amsterdam’ plan.