As the full extent of pollution on public health becomes apparent, governments and cities are under increasing pressure to do more to protect their citizens. With a growing portion of the world’s population living in urban areas, the issue of pollution is only set to increase in step. Now, four major cities have banned all diesel-powered cars in a bold move to improve air quality.
The mayors of Mexico City, Paris, Madrid, and Athens have all pledged to become the first major urban areas to ban diesel cars by 2025. They will implement incentives to encourage citizens to use alternative vehicles, as well as promote walking and cycling instead. They hope to lead the way in providing a cleaner, and thus safer, city for their inhabitants, protecting people from exposure to harmful particulates and chemicals.
“Mayors have already stood up to say that the climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face,” says Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and newly appointed chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which met in Mexico City last week. “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. Big problems like air pollution require bold action, and we call on car and bus manufacturers to join us.”
The burning of diesel in combustion engines produces significant levels of nitrogen oxides as well as fine particles such as soot that are breathed deep into the lungs, and has been linked to a multitude of health problems, such as lung cancer, respiratory illness, and even bladder cancer. Worldwide, it is thought that at least 3 million people a year die prematurely due to the inhalation of polluted air, with the majority of these occurring in urban centers.
It is hoped that the push to ban all diesel cars will drive a rapid transition to electric, hydrogen, and hybrid vehicles, which would not only significantly improve air quality, but also help in the fight against climate change. “The quality of the air that we breathe in our cities is directly linked to tackling climate change,” explains Manuela Carmena, the mayor of Madrid. “As we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated in our cities, our air will become cleaner and our children, our grandparents and our neighbours will be healthier.”
Pressure is now mounting on the mayors of other major cities to follow suit with other similar commitments, in a bid to not only do their bit for the climate but to also save lives.
Cover photo: View from Acropolis towards Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece. Piet Theisohn/Flickr CC2.0