Mayors from around the world met for the C40 conference in Mexico City last week to discuss how to prepare their cities for climate change and deal effectively with vehicle emissions. At the meeting, the mayors of four of the world’s largest cities announced plans to ban diesel powered vehicles as early as 2025. The cities are Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City.
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, led the initiative at the mayors’ meeting. She told the audience, “Mayors have already stood up to say that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face. Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Once thought to be a boon for civilization, diesels are now viewed as a threat to human health. Today, we know that the thought of clean diesel is as far fetched as the notion of clean coal. “Soot from diesel vehicles is among the big contributors to ill health and global warming,” said Helena Molin Valdés, head of the United Nations’ climate and clean air coalition. She told the conference that nine out of 10 people around the globe live where air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation safety limits.
The mayors all say that better public transportation systems will be needed to get people to stop driving cars in and around cities. Some transportation experts predict that ride hailing and car sharing services will also play a major role in decarbonizing cities. Some cities are planning on increasing the amount of space in cities devoted to bicycle lanes and walking paths.
Banning diesel cars will be fairly easy to do, but the vast majority of the trucks that deliver consumer goods to city residents are powered by diesel engines. Perhaps a push by cities to eliminate diesel trucks from their streets will encourage manufacturers to develop cleaner trucks for the future.
Today, about 50% of all the earth’s inhabitants live in cities but that figure is expected to rise to 70% by the year 2050. Many think eliminating private cars altogether would be a good place to start when it comes to cleaning the skies over global cities. One of the promises of self driving cars is that one vehicle could do the work of 10 private cars, reducing the total number of cars on urban streets by 90%. Among other things, that would greatly reduce the need for parking spaces and allow pedestrian malls, parks, and bike paths to be built in their place.
Notice that the mayors’ plan does not require any action at the national level. No one has to ask permission from higher authorities to take steps to protect city dwellers from environmental dangers. As cities increase in size, their political power will grow. If nothing else, the C40 conference of mayors should encourage other civic leaders to take similar steps.
As climate change begins to affect larger numbers of people, cities may be at the forefront of policy initiatives designed to protect their citizens. Donald Trump may huff and puff about how global warming is a hoax, but city leaders have to deal with reality every day. Particularly in the US where the entire Congress is committed to doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, local action may be the only way to create policy initiatives designed to address the problems caused by alterations to the environment.
Source: The Guardian