Better air quality in cities

In Germany, “environmental zones” are urban areas where only low-emission vehicles are allowed. The aim in creating these zones is to improve air quality and thus to have a positive impact on people’s health. Yet according to the results of a study based on data from “Living in Germany,” the life satisfaction of city inhabitants actually declines in the first few years after these zones are created.

“People need about four to five years to get used to environmental zones,” says DIW researcher Nicole Wägner. In her view, the reason for this lies in people’s living situations: People whose mobility is reduced due to an environmental zone or who have to dig deep into their pockets to buy a low-emission car find it more difficult to accept them.

People under the age of 65 and people with diesel-fueled cars are initially less satisfied when an environmental zone is created. “Younger people have a greater need for mobility and more often have to use a car to get to work. There are stricter standards for diesel-fueled cars in environmental zones than for gas-fueled cars,” explains co-author Luis Sarmiento from the Milan-based RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment.

Further information

DIW Berlin (Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung): Low emission zones improve air quality and health but temporarily decrease life satisfaction

All results in the overview