Madrid’s new mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida had been in office for two weeks when he faced massive public opposition to his reversal of a measure that restricts entry to cars in the city. Despite a major heatwave in July 2019, tens of thousands took to the streets to fight for improved air quality. Madrid’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ), named “Madrid Central”, has been one of the effective in Europe, achieving the lowest pollution levels in a decade despite a high overall concentration of NOx/air pollutants in the city due to unusually hot and dry weather.
A Madrid administrative court ordered the city government to reinstore the LEZ in the city centre in reaction to the grassroots upswell. Spanish organisation Ecologistas en Acción (Ecologists in Action), together with Greenpeace -and other organisations that form the Platform in Defense of Madrid Central, which brings together more than 80 entities- had filed an administrative appeal against the moratorium on fines. The environmentalists argued that the moratorium produced an “injury to the general interests.”
This civil society resistance, together with a whirl of media coverage and op-eds, helped ECF grantees T&E, Carlos Bravo, and Fundacion Ecologia y Desarrollo (ECODES) obtain several meetings at the Ministerial level as well as with the new City Council’s Counselor for Environment and Mobility in charge of the file.
The court requested a suspension on the moratorium of fines in Madrid Central. A source close to the Spanish Minister for the Ecological Transition, Ms. Teresa Ribera, explained that the court’s arguments were very similar to those of environmentalists, both demonstrating that Madrid Central has registered lower pollution levels since the LEZ was established and that the LEZ did not pose a threat to the future of the automobile industry. It also considered that measures such the LEZ as “essential” to comply with European and international environmental legislation.
Update 31/07/2020: The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM) has annulled Madrid Central for “formal defects“. The legal ruling is currently being revised and discussed by the parties involved, pending the next Madrid City Council’s movement and the final wording of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law in the Parliament.
To read more, see the series of op-eds that the ECF community contributed to placing: