Paris becomes 'Low Emission Zone': key information for Delegations


Paris has recently undergone some visible changes as speed limits of 30 km/h were introduced end of August 2021, certain traffic lanes are closed for cars, road construction works are ongoing, and the number of bike lanes has significantly increased. In brief, the capital is transforming into a car-free city. Among 250 cities in Europe, Paris became a "Low Emission Zone” (Zone à faibles émissions, ZFE) in July 2019 – with consequences in several stages for the entire city in the coming years. The UNESCO Sector for Administration and Management (ADM) is pleased to share some key information that may be useful for members of Permanent Delegations to UNESCO based in Paris.


The air quality in Paris needs to improve significantly – for example,  500,000 inhabitants were exposed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations exceeding the regulatory limit before the pandemic  – mainly caused by road transport. The establishment of a low emission zone was assessed as having the greatest and fastest impact on the reduction of pollutant emissions. The main objective of introducing such a zone is to improve air quality all the while transforming the capital’s entire mobility system.

The measures are part of the Paris Climate Action Plan which proposes 500 measures to improve the city's climate performance and make it carbon neutral by 2050. In 2019, the Ministry of Ecological Transition introduced the Mobility Orientation Act, which aims to make transport in France easier, cheaper and cleaner thanks to an unprecedented investment (€13.4 billion over 5 years).

Key points

Ø  The operation "Paris Breathes” (Paris respire) provides for the closure of specific districts and streets to cars, either for an undetermined trial period or on specific days, such as on the first Sunday of the month or on public holidays. You can refer to this map and follow this list of the work in progress. Pedestrians are invited to take full advantage of the Parisian space.

Ø  Bike paths are spreading more and more throughout the city: discover this interactive map and the real-time update of temporary and existing cycling tracks. According to the Paris Bike Plan, a total of 200km of routes will be built until 2030 with an annual budget of €10M. To date, more than 1400 Vélib stations are operational.

Ø  An environmental classification introduced in 2016, the Air Quality Certificate (= Vignette Crit'Air), is now mandatory to be able to drive in Paris. The requirements will gradually increase according to the different vignettes:

o   Since June 2021, cars not classified or with a Crit'Air 5 or Crit'Air 4 vignette are prohibited in Paris (delimited by the A86 motorway). From the end of 2021, fines from 68 euros upwards will be applied.

o   Cars classified Crit'Air 3 will no longer be allowed from July 2022; those classified Crit'Air 2  from January 2024, including all "diesel" cars.    

o   No more cars with combustion/combustion engines will be allowed after 2030. This is why the number of charging stations is already constantly increasing.

o   Vignette Crit’Air: Each car is classified according to its environmental performance. The "air quality certificate" can be easily obtained here online. This video briefly explains the system.

Ø  More information about the Low Emission Zone can be found on this page.

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Some recommendations for members of Permanent Delegations

ü  You may want to try using a bike to get to your office or consider investing in an electric bike or motorcycle (to replace a car), which allows for a new way of healthy and clean mobility. Given the current development, taking the bike is becoming more and more comfortable: on the Copenhagenize Index (ranking of bike-friendly cities), Paris has climbed to eighth place.

ü  Consider purchasing a Navigo pass to get to the office by public transport instead of by car. 

ü  For personal and official cars of your Delegation, make sure to get a Crit'Air vignette. If planning to buy a new personal or official car soon, you may want to check the environmental ranking of the car – not the least to comply with new regulations for Paris. Hydrogen or 100% electric cars could be a preferable choice.

ü  When choosing a new apartment, access to public transport and distance to the workplace could be relevant factors to consider for easier and cleaner mobility.   

ü  A conversion bonus and an ecological bonus are offered for some cars (often registered before 2006), and even for buying an electric bike. You can find more information in French on this page of the Ministry for Ecological Transition, test your eligibility for replacement assistance on this dedicated page and find further information by the City of Paris here.   

What is UNESCO doing in this regard?

UNESCO participates in the UN “Greening the Blue initiative and implements an Environmental Management System (EMS) to improve the environmental performance of its operations, facilities and activities, in line with UNESCO’s Environmental Sustainability and Management Policy. The EMS also targets travel and staff commuting, and various measures will be put in place in the coming years. For example, UNESCO is seeking to gradually replace its fleet with electric vehicles, and a study is underway to install charging stations at Headquarters for staff use. With regards to the environmental commitment of UNESCO staff, the Staff Guide for a Green UNESCO offers several tips on eco-responsible mobility (in its first chapter). More and more colleagues are cycling to the office, making use of the bike parking and take advantage of UNESCO’s corporate Vélib' subscription.


To learn more about environmental management and other sustainability activities at UNESCO, coordinated by the Sector for Administration and Management, please visit this page.

For any questions or suggestions, please contact environment(at)