Justice overturns the veto on polluting cars in Barcelona

Cars circulating at the entrance to Barcelona on Diagonal in an old image. / ARCHIVE

The TSJC considers that the measure adopted by the Barcelona City Council and that came into force in 2020 is "excessive"

Justice on Monday overturned one of the star measures of the municipal government of Ada Colau in Barcelona in the fight against climate change. The TSJC has decided to annul the municipal ordinance that restricted the circulation of old and polluting vehicles throughout the Catalan capital, both residents and travelers who wanted to access the city through the ring roads.

The measure, approved by the municipal plenary session on December 20, 2019, entered into force on January 1, 2020 in a progressive manner. And it affected all the vehicles to which none of the environmental labels of the DGT correspond. Without it, either because the car was old (before 2006 for diesel and 2000 for gasoline) or very polluting, it was not possible to drive during the day in the whole city, except on weekends. The City Council installed cameras to detect offenders, who have had to pay fines of around 100 euros for driving old cars.

The TSJC has annulled this regulation, understanding that it has "deficiencies in its preparation", "lack of decisive reports" and because it is "excessive" in the geographical scope of application and in the type of vehicles excluded. It so happens that last Friday it was announced that the measure would be extended to all the municipalities of Catalonia with more than 20,000 inhabitants before 2025 as part of a plan against climate change and the objective of reducing polluting emissions.

Justice, with the vote against one of the magistrates, has agreed with some entities that opposed the decision of the Barcelona City Council to veto old, diesel and polluting cars and the annulment will come into force immediately , although the Barcelona City Council can appeal the court decision. These entities are the Platform for People Affected by Circulatory Restrictions, the Association of Large Families of Catalonia, the Catalan Business Federation of Passenger Transport and the Association of Discretionary Transport Entrepreneurs.

Among other arguments of justice, he points out that the ordinance "imposes limiting measures on the exercise of the right to mobility of the owners of vehicles without an environmental label" and that in his opinion "the limitation of the principle of economic freedom is also appreciable", that the Constitution establishes the principle of free enterprise within the framework of the market economy. "Specifically, the measures directly limit the business and professional activity of transport, by restricting their exercise in the low-emission zone by professional vehicles for reasons of being categorized as more polluting," asserts the court order. "Although the environmental objective of improving air quality and reducing atmospheric pollution falls within the reasons of general interest, the same jurisprudence requires that the limitations and requirements that could be established be proportionate and the least restrictive," the judges argue.

In his view, the "intensity" of the measure in fact implies an impossibility of carrying out all, or at least a large part, of the business, commercial or professional activity with vehicles without an environmental label. "We must also underline that the ordinance produces a confinement effect for vehicles without an environmental label, which is a measure that can be discriminatory for residents who, in addition to for leisure reasons, may need to use the vehicle in certain circumstances," Add.

In the procedure for preparing the ordinance, criticizes justice, it is not based on updated data of the affected mobile fleet, nor are the different effects that occur for certain categories of groups that appear most affected, such as residents and of professionals and in the case of professional vehicles, the limiting effect is projected especially in business groups with less economic capacity to renew the vehicle, such as the self-employed, micro-enterprises or SMEs.

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