Spain to introduce low-emission zones amid "climate emergency"

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s government formally declared a “climate emergency” on Tuesday, proposing measures to tackle climate change that include mandatory low-emission zones in big cities.

Such zones, which aim to improve air quality by restricting car use in urban areas, are already in effect in Barcelona and Madrid, as well as dozens of cities around the globe.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting of the new government, environmental minister Teresa Ribera said a bill will oblige all urban areas with a population of more than 50,000 to create low-emission zones. The measures will be sent to parliament in the next 100 days.

Earlier attempts to introduce such restrictions in Spain have met with resistance, including in Madrid, where the conservative council last year attempted to lift a ban on cars circulating in the city centre.

The move, which marked the first time a major European city had attempted to backtrack on a low-emissions zone, was later blocked in court.

The left-wing coalition also said it would introduce legislation to bring down emissions and achieve “climate neutrality” by 2050.

The ambitious target is likely to put the coalition government on a collision course with the far-right Vox party, who surged in November’s election to become the third largest group in parliament.

Vox party poured scorn on the measures, describing them as an attack on “hard-working, taxpaying Spaniards”.

Spain’s declaration of the climate emergency follows similar pronouncements by more than half a dozen countries and cities, as well as a symbolic recognition by the European Parliament in November.

Barcelona’s local government made its own declaration last week and set a target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50% through 2030.

Reporting by Nathan Allen, Inti Landauro and Ashifa Kassam; Editing by Angus MacSwan