Jerusalem gears up to ban high-polluting diesel vehicles from downtown

Municipality says low emission zone will go into effect in November; drivers of truck not fitted with special pollution-reducing filters will be fined

A view of King George Street in downtown Jerusalem on November 26, 2015 (Elon Kenig/Flash90)
A view of King George Street in downtown Jerusalem on November 26, 2015 (Elon Kenig/Flash90)

The Environmental Protection Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality on Monday announced a reduced-emissions zone for the capital’s downtown area, the first phase of a plan to ban high-polluting diesel vehicles from the city as a whole.

A joint statement outlined a “Low Emissions Zone” for downtown Jerusalem, where it said older-model diesel-powered trucks would be banned starting in November.

The Zone is bordered by Haneviim Street to the north, Strauss Street and King George Street to the west, Agron Street to the south and Heil Hahandasa Street to the east.

The initial stage will see a ban on diesel vehicles of over 3.5 tons constructed before 2006, unless they are fitted with special pollution-reducing particle filters.

Drivers of unauthorized vehicles caught inside the limited zone will be fined. The municipality did not say what the fine would be, but reports said tickets were expected to run in the hundreds of shekels.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said it would spend NIS 24 million ($7 million) to implement the plan in the capital, including subsidies for pollution filters and the purchase of 10 new electric buses — which operate quietly, have zero pollution emissions and less than half of the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel buses.

Egged’s new electric buses at their charging station in Jerusalem during the launching ceremony, on September 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The plan originally called for the ban to be implemented only in Jerusalem’s downtown, but the ministry said in its statement Monday that it was teaming up with the municipality to expand the project.

It said that on Thursday, Jerusalem’s city council would discuss the possibility of making the entire city a Low Emissions Zone.

Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin said diseases-linked to air pollution were one of the leading cases of death in Israel and the plan would lead to a “significant reduction” in emissions levels in the city.

In 2017, the northern industrial city of Haifa approved a reduced pollution zone, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection has been eager to implement it in central Tel Aviv too.

Illustrative photo of diesel exhaust fumes.
(Toa55/iStock by Getty Images)

“I’m calling on the Tel Aviv municipality to join this major initiative, so that all three of Israel’s urban centers will lead the way in reducing air pollution across the country,” Elkin said Monday.

Diesel fuel, which has long been touted as an efficient, cost-effective and low carbon-dioxide polluting material, has been found in recent years to have carcinogenic properties.

The European Environment Agency in 2013 estimated that 71,000 people across the continent had died in a year due to exposure to nitrogen dioxide, which enters the air mainly from the burning of fuel.

In 2016, the World Health Organization labeled labeled diesel fuel a carcinogenic in the category of asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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