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Air Quality Plans

Air Quality Plans in Germany and Spain: A comparative legal analysis of the instruments for compliance with limit values regarding motorized vehicles

Vincent-Carlos Barduhn - University of Bremen, Prof. C. Franzius

Due to the Directive 2008/50/EC, European Member States must accomplish limit values regarding air pollution since 2010. Nevertheless, both Germany and Spain exceeded these limit values for several years, achieving overall compliance as late as 2020. The same issues are about to reemerge as the Air Quality Directive is currently being under revision to set stricter limit values (COM/2022/542 final). In order to ensure future compliance, Member States must promptly implement measures against air pollution. This could lead to further restrictions on motor vehicles, specifically in the form of new traffic restriction measures or low emission zones.

The research project aims to conduct a comprehensive comparative legal analysis of the instruments implemented to comply with limit values regarding motorized vehicles in Germany and Spain. Key instrument is the air quality plan. Less known but not less important are alternative instruments that endorse air quality plans. In Spain, mobility plans play a major role. They serve as an instrument to introduce nationwide low emission zones in larger cities. They are coordinated with air quality plans. In addition, urban development planning as well as a (possible) Mobility and Municipal Transport Planning Act will be addressed.

A comparative analysis of German and Spanish legal frameworks is particularly suitable due to similarities in factual and legal terms. Both countries have numerous metropolitan areas with high density of motorized vehicles. They also have a similar economic structure: Germany and Spain are Europe’s largest car manufacturers. Correspondingly, traffic restriction measures are controversial within the economy and the population. In legal terms, there is a similar legal framework: Both Member States are subject to the legal sources and scope of application of European Union. Furthermore, the form of government is very similar: Spain’s territorial organization resembles that of Germany. Spain is thus one of the most decentralized countries in Europe.