The EU had ordered the Dublin councils to prepare an air quality plan after nitrogen dioxide levels were found to exceed annual legal limits at one monitoring station in the city.
The gas is associated with a number of respiratory conditions, including reduced lung function and increased asthma attacks. It is considered a likely cause of asthma in children.
The limits were breached in 2019 at St John’s Road West, beside Heuston station in the city.
An air quality plan for the Dublin region showed that three-quarters of submissions supported the introduction of “low-emission zones” which would limit vehicle access to the city and other parts of Dublin through charges based on their polluting potential.
Almost 80 per cent of respondents supported the idea of strengthening local authority and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) powers in relation to dealing with air pollution, with 75 per cent supporting the implementation of low-emission zones by local authorities.
Those opposed to penalising polluting vehicles by charging them for entry to certain zones gave a number of reasons, including that air quality in Dublin was “satisfactory” and no action was required, and that charges would be a “stealth tax” on motorists.
Earlier this week it was revealed that congestion charges of €10 a day for cars to enter Cork city centre were among a range of measures considered in a new sustainable travel report commissioned by the Department of Transport.
In its 'Five Cities Demand Management' report into sustainable and healthier forms of travel in Cork, Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, and Galway, consultants Systra outlined possible outcomes of congestion charges.
It suggested that a charge of €10 in peak times and €5 in off-peak times "would have a significantly positive effect on congestion in Dublin with reductions in car travel time within the city core of nearly a third".
The charge would "result in significant reductions in pollutants affecting air quality within the city core of both Dublin and Cork, with reductions of 7% to 12% in NOx and 9% to 13% in PM", Systra said.
NOx is a highly-pollutant emission that is produced by cars, buses, trucks, and other vehicles, and is the main driver of health issues such as breathing problems, reduced lung function, eye irritation, and even tooth corrosion.
Systra said: "It is expected that the reduction in car trips and improvements to air quality would result in significantly positive impacts on the urban environment within the city core.
"In the case of Cork, the model results show that traffic redistributing elsewhere presents a risk of higher concentrations of vehicle emissions affecting air quality outside the city core."
However, any congestion charge plan would need major policy changes to complement it, the report said, such as encouraging walking, cycling, and the use of public transport, and would be years in the making, Systra suggested.