Preface / The low-emission zone - What is it?

Traffic on Berlin city highway

Traffic on Berlin city highway

The low emission zone is an area, where only vehicles are allowed, which comply with certain emission standards. Vehicles with especially high emissions have to stay outside.The low emission zone in Berlin is limited to the urban area within the S-Bahn ring. Since 1.1.2020, only vehicles with a green sticker are allowed in this area. Driving or parking in the low emission zone without a green sticker or an exemption permit is an offence and costs 80 Euros fine. The low emission zone does not apply to motorcycles. Motorcycles can drive within the low emission zone without a sticker.

The low emission zone aims to achieve a modernisation of the vehicles driving on the roads and so reduce the diesel particles and nitrogen oxides that people inhale. Thus, the air will be cleaner and healthier.

  • When does the low-emission zone apply?

    The low emission zone was established on 1 January 2008 requiring a red sticker (stage 1). Since 1 January 2010, the green sticker is mandatory for the Berlin low emission zone (stage 2).

    In order to reduce pollution in the air in Berlin permanently the low emission zone traffic restrictions apply all time, i.e. without any time restrictions. Driving bans apply independent of the air pollution levels.

  • Why is an low-emission zone necessary?

    The low emission zone helps to reduce air pollution and therefore to protect health.

    It is a measure of the air quality plan of Berlin 2005-2010 to meet the air quality standards of particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as soon as possible and assure a good air quality.

    Mainly, the low emission zone focuses on the reduction of diesel exhaust particles. These particles are especially harmful and increase the risk of pulmonary and cardio-vascular diseases. Moreover, diesel particles are classified as cancerogenous.

    The low emission zone was not introduced to decrease the output of carbon dioxide (CO2), a climate-damaging gas. Nevertheless, it supports climate protection, as diesel particles contributes to the global warming as well and are now classified as one of the most important climate drivers after CO2.

  • What has the low-emission zone achieved?

    The low emission zone lead to a significant modernisation of the vehicle fleet in Berlin.

    In 2012 around 96 % of diesel cars and approximately 85 % of all trucks had a green sticker. To achieve this, some 60,000 diesel-vehicles were retrofitted with particle filters. There are only minor differences between the vehicle fleet composition in the low emission zone and the rest of the urban area of Berlin. Without the low emission zone only around 80 % of diesel cars and 50 % of trucks would be awarded a green sticker.

    The introduction of stage 2 achieved a reduction in emissions of diesel particles by more than half compared with the assumed trend, while nitrogen oxide emissions fell by around 20 %. This represents around 173 tonnes of diesel soot and 1,500 tonnes of nitrogen oxides less each year.

    Without the reduction in pollutant emissions, air pollution of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter PM10 would have been around 5 to 10 % higher. The reduction in additional particulate pollution along roads is of special significance for health protection. This traffic contribution on top of background pollution levels in urban residential areas away from main traffic routes could be more than halved.

    As studies into the health risks posed by vehicle exhaust emissions in North Rhine-Westphalia have shown, the increased levels of pollution resulted in a significantly higher frequency of premature death from cardio-vascular diseases among residents. Their risk was almost 80 % higher than for people living more than 50 m away from main traffic routes.

    Please refer to the technical report by Wichmann et al.

  • Technical report by Wichmann et al.

    PDF-Document - As of: 2005; size: 1,4 MB

  • Report on effectiveness: Ein Jahr Umweltzone Stufe 2 in Berlin

    One year of the Berlin low emission zone stage 2

    PDF-Document (791.0 kB)

  • Presentation: Untersuchungen zur Wirkung der Stufe 2

    Investigation into the effectiveness of stage 2

    PDF-Document (258.2 kB)


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