A law giving the transport minister sweeping powers – such as designating low or zero-emission urban areas and barring certain vehicles from using them – must be passed by year’s end, an official told MPs on Thursday.
Acting permanent secretary of the transport ministry, Yiannis Nicolaides, told legislators that the legislation – which got a first reading in parliament – is among a series of laws Cyprus must enact as part of the European Union’s ‘Fit for 55’ scheme.
It’s part of the legal framework for achieving binding targets relating to sustainable urban mobility.
The reform in question is included in the national Recovery and Resilience plan and should be approved by the end of the year.
By 2030 Cyprus has undertaken the obligation to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent, Nicolaides recalled. Road transport accounts for approximately 50 per cent of such emissions, translating into two million tonnes a year.
The ‘Law setting special measures for reducing atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in road transport’ will give the transport minister the power to issue decrees – published in the government gazette – designating specific days and times of day for the transit of vehicles running on conventional fuels (petrol and diesel) within low or zero-emission areas or streets.
The minister can also identify a section, or even a lane, of a road which certain categories of vehicles will be prohibited from using. Further, the minister will assign areas or streets which certain vehicles can use, but only upon payment of a fee to the local authority.
The law speaks of ‘superintendents’ – to be appointed by the transport minister – who will check if vehicles carry a pollution certificate in low or zero-emission areas.
But Nicolaides said pollution checks could also be carried out by infrared cameras. Such cameras generate images of emissions from a vehicle’s exhaust.
Lawmakers expressed reservations, pointing out that a great deal many people won’t be able to comply. They called for an incentives scheme for the purchase of low-emissions vehicles, and asked whether a transitional period would apply once the law has been enacted.
Nicolaides referred MPs to current available schemes for replacing old vehicles. Regarding implementation, he said that the law must be enacted by the end of 2023, although the measures will start being applied as of 2025.
Under the law, in low or zero-emission areas no vehicle can exceed speeds of 25km/hour.
Any person violating the decrees in force at any given time will have committed a criminal offence and will be liable, in the event of conviction, to jail time of up to two years and/or a fine up to €10,000.
Anyone assigning another person to drive a vehicle in a controlled area or street in violation of the decrees, will likewise be liable to the same penalties.
In addition, any person who obstructs or prevents a superintendent or police officer from carrying out their duties, or who does not follow their instructions, is liable to jail time of up to one year and/or a fine not exceeding €5,000.
On-the-spot fines may be issued.
The text of the legislation states that the police, the armed forces, civil defence, the fire department and ambulances will be exempt from the provisions of the ministerial decrees.