With the United Nations Conference on Climate Change coming up at the end of the month, many countries are preparing to discuss action items and long-term projects to combat climate change and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
In an effort to help curb air pollution, many cities worldwide have already been limiting the use of cars, and encouraging the public to use public transportation, walk, or cycle to their destinations. While the idea to limit, or altogether ban, private vehicles isn’t groundbreaking, the positive results it has on cutting pollution are staggering.
Paris, France, celebrated its first car-free day this past September 27. While some were wary of the ban on private vehicles in the city’s centre, many Parisians opened up to the idea, and the day was an overall success. Between 11:00am and 6:00pm, private vehicles were banned from the city’s core “stretching between Bastille and the Champs Elysées, and the outer Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes,” and other districts saw reduced vehicle usage and lower speed limits.
The project was put forward by Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, in an effort to reduce the amount of pollution within the city. Many tourist spots throughout the city, such as the Eiffel Tower, are often seen through a hazy skyline due to large amounts of air pollution. On September 27, however, many people noted that the sky was noticeably clearer. The streets throughout the city’s core were also full of pedestrians, and people participating in public activities, cycling, and yoga.
In an attempt to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2020, Norway’s capital, Oslo, announced earlier this fall that it will fully ban the use of private vehicles in the city’s core by 2019. The overall goal is to help curb air pollution, and lessen the country’s carbon footprint. The project is a joint effort between the country’s major political parties, who issued an official report outlining the full project in October.
In order to encourage sustainable travel, the city is also planning to “build more bicycle lanes, subsidise the purchase of electric bicycles and reduce automobile traffic over the city as a whole by 20% by 2019 and 30% by 2030.” These new initiatives will not only help those who commute within the city’s core, but also ensure that air quality within the city improves.
On October 22, the world’s most polluted city, New Delhi, India, had its first car-free day. Going forward, the city has also announced that it will continue car-free days in certain areas of the city on a monthly basis, and tax commercial vehicles that travel within the city limits. These actions have been implemented after the World Health Organization declared the city to contain the worst air pollution worldwide. Earlier this year, India also officially declared the city to have an air pollution crisis, with the majority of emissions being linked to vehicles.
While New Delhi isn’t implementing any immediate plans to build green spaces or make the city more walkable for pedestrians, it is passing new laws that limit the usage of vehicles in the city’s centre. Plans are in the works to build a new road around the city (which will limit cars from traveling directly through the core), and commercial vehicles entering the city will be taxed roughly $20. The public is also being encouraged to commute via foot or bicycle when possible.
While there is obvious backlash against car bans and stricter driving policies, these projects may be an easy solution to cutting back on poisonous emissions. You can read about other European cities working towards limiting and banning the usage of private vehicles here.
In the United States, Indianapolis, Indiana, has also taken bold moves to make the city more walkable and green by building an 18-mile pedestrian walkway and implementing both an electric car-share and bike-share program. More information about the city’s sustainable projects, and limited car usage, can be found here.