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Low-emission zone: No-brainer or non-starter?

Sustainability, a circular society, and an environment where all people, both inside and outside of Maastricht, can prosper. These are all issues that are close to my heart. And as luck would have it, Volt not only shares these values but also had an opening for a political assistant to assist on issues concerning, amongst others, these three issues. As a newbie in local politics, I jumped at the opportunity and within a split second an opportunity presented itself in the form of a current hot topic in local government: the low-emission zone (hereafter, LEZ).

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Danny Janssen

The LEZ, a no-brainer to some, a non-starter for others. But for me, strangely synonymous with the municipal council and the parties representing Maastricht. Just think of it, every elected council(wo)man aims to improve living conditions of a city for generations to come. In a way, quite like an LEZ – don’t you think? And, like Maastricht’s city council, there are various flavors, some similar in one way or another to each other. Without diving into semantics, the LEZ, zero-emission zone and a car-free city center all have in common that they improve the air quality in which they are deployed. But upon closer inspection, each of these do vary in their implementation. The LEZ, for example, only blocks cars running on diesel of a certain age, whereas the zero-emission zone blocks all cars emitting exhaustion. A car-free city center, on the other hand, would block all cars from entering the zone, including electronic vehicles (hereafter, EV’s). If you compare this to (local) politics, Volt, Groenlinks (the greens) and D66 (social liberals) all fall under the umbrella of progressive parties. But that being said, to an extent they do all vary in their vision and the policies they want to implement. 

As is the case in the city council, the LEZ also asks for compromise. Whereas I think we can all agree that decreasing air pollution in the city is a good thing, a question on how does arise. And while implementing these, to what extent can and should one compromise. Take for example the zero-emission zone. As mentioned, it blocks all vehicles except for EV’s (and in the future hydrogen) from entering a certain part of the city. The question, or potential compromise, then arises – to what extent is this fair to all citizens if your non-electric Volkswagen would not be able to enter part of the city, but your neighbor's Tesla would? 

The Maastricht chapter of Volt, including myself, are currently busy weighing the pros and cons of each alternative. Because even though, for me, the LEZ is like the Maastricht city council and her parties, in the end the most important thing is that we look at the topic diligently and see how we can make Maastricht a city for all to prosper. As you may recall from the elections, Volt is in favor of a car-free inner city. But, as always within Volt, we are looking across the city (and country) borders to see what best practices we can adopt and implement. Herein, we want to make sure we look at the issue pragmatically, without striking a populist tone.

A local Maastricht’s song by “De Zingende Pötsvrouwe” includes the following lines: Mestreech is neet breid meh Mestreech dat is laank. Mestreech is de stad vaan de Gezèlle vaan de Zaank. Niks is te lestig en niks is te zwoer. In short, the final sentence reads that for Maastricht nothing is too hard or too difficult. And with this, I express my sincere hope that this also goes for hot topics such as these.