In order to protect human health and the environment, the Council of the European Union drew up a directive with air quality standards in April 1999. With a national law (Decreto-Lei nº 102/2010 of 23rd September 2010), the Portuguese Government transposed the EU Directive into national legislation. Under this Directive and the national law, local authorities are required to review air quality in their area of jurisdiction (regional level). The Portuguese Environment Ministry is responsible for reporting measurements to the European Commission and implementing measures to improve air quality. The Commission for the Coordination and Rural Development (CCDR) are the regional authorities in charge of air quality management and preparation of plans in the different regions: North, Centre, lisbon and Tagus Valley, Alentejo and Algarve. In places where EU limits are exceeded, they have to assign air quality plans and programs to execute these plans. Accordingly, the daily limit value for particulate matter (PM10) was set at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which may be exceeded on a maximum of 35 days a year. The average annual value for nitrogen dioxide was set at 40 µg/m3.
Air Quality Action Plans
The EU directive obliges cities and municipalities to draw up action plans for air pollution control. An action plan shall include a statement of the time within which the local authority proposes to implement the measures comprised in the plan. A local authority can revise an action plan if necessary. In Portugal 25 Air Quality Zones and Agglomerations were defined, where monitoring stations on rural, urban and suburban areas measure ambient concentrations for ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM10, PM2,5), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene (C6H6) or sulphur dioxide (SO2).
Plans and Programs are developed for several regions where limit values are exceeded by the respective CCDR. These plans contain different measures to reduce emissions from different sectors, e.g. introduction of Low Emission Zones (LEZ), or reduce residential combustion emissions. Most measures are not fully or not implemented yet, although noncompliance is ongoing.
Low Emission Zones
There is currently one Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Portugal. This LEZ set in Lisbon downtown (Avenida da Liberdade) was first introduced in July 2011 in a phased implementation scheme. Since 15 January 2015 the Zone 1 (axis Marquês do Pombal roundabout - Lisbon downtown) has traffic restrictions to vehicles below EURO 3 and Zone 2 (a larger area covering 30 % of Lisbon municipality) has restrictions to vehicles below EURO 2: http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/perguntas-frequentes/ambiente/zer-zona-de-emissoes-reduzidas. The LEZ regulations are in force from Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and involve light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.
Emergency vehicles, historic vehicles and Lisbon residents living in the LEZ are exempted from the regulations. Taxis had been exempted from these rules during Phase 1 and 2 of the Lisbon LEZ, but they will start a specific phase-in scheme in 2015: from 1st July 2017 onwards, they will have to comply with the same restrictions as of today for light-duty and heavy vehicles at Zone 1 (EURO 3).