15 February 2018
Category : Reportage
Causes and consequences of urban air pollution
Cities are becoming key hubs from which to fight climate change. In Latin America, Euroclima+ supports mitigation policies to reduce emissions"Sustainable cities" are one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
When pollution levels increase, public transport in Paris is free. And only “clean” vehicles can enter the city. In Brussels and Copenhagen, priority is given to bicycles. Or the speed limit is reduced, as in Madrid. While London, Oslo and Stockholm use tolls to restrict traffic.
Other measures taken by the transport sector to reduce urban air pollution include prizes for green cars and controlling traffic flow and parking, encouraging car sharing and public transport. Urban air pollution is one of the most visible effects of climate change in cities around the world.
Outside of Europe, Tokyo monitors pollution in real time, with indexes that can be viewed online. Checks on the street, fines and lists of offenders are some of the other measures taken in one of the most populated cities in the world.
And the majority of the world population lives in cities. Making the adoption of an urban perspective on climate change necessary, as it is estimated that 70% of the population will be urban in 2050. Uses associated with the network of cities produce more than 70% of CO2 emissions.
Climate change and health
An article reflects on whether we are aware of what urban air pollution means. On whether we are aware that poor air quality affects our health. And on whether we are aware that it causes thousands of premature deaths a year. And it is backed up by data: 1,032,833 deaths per year in China, 621,138 in India, 54,507 in Ukraine, 32,668 in Turkey, 26,241 in Brazil, 26,160 in Germany and 16,798 in Mexico.
Euroclima+, the European Union-financed programme to tackle climate change in Latin America, supports the development of mitigation policies directly related to the reduction of greenhouse gases and other emissions.
In addition, other specific plans with this objective are being developed in the industrial and transport sectors. They are necessary because a growing population means that current production and consumption patterns are running up against limited resources. A calculation of the ecological footprint shows that if no action is taken by 2030 we will need the equivalent of two planet Earths to cover our needs.
The programme is present in 18 Latin American countries and works in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and according to the needs of a region that hosts some of those expanding cities.
Climate change in the Sustainable Development Goals
The climate governance component of Euroclima+ is being led by FIIAPP. Another of the programme’s tasks is to evaluate these climate policies, which will allow the associated actions to be redefined or redesigned in accordance with the framework agreements or compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These are the 17 goals several world leaders established in 2015 for a better world in 2030. And which, in summary, aim to “end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change”.
Among them, number 11 refers to “sustainable cities” with a section on “environmental impacts” and number 13 focuses on action against climate change.–– But, how are things progressing with them?
The European Union is studying progress towards these goals. In its latest study (Sustainable development in the European Union, 2017) it determined that the concentration of population and industry continues to be a risk for air quality. Despite the advances, the levels of air pollution continue to be above those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, as part of its strategy for 2020, the EU set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, compared to 1990. The goal for 2015 has already been exceeded, with a reduction of 22%.
The cities are also commited
In this context, cities are aware they need to be involved. And they advocated this at the last UN Climate Summit (COP23), held in Bonn in November 2017, by calling for more tools to combat climate change.
Specifically, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was addressed with the ultimate aim of slowing down global warming. The objective remains that terrestrial temperatures do not increase more than 2 ºC by 2050. To achieve this, emissions must be reduced by 80%.
Euroclima+ also attended the meeting, where it met with ministers from several countries in the region to follow up on the objectives they have already committed to under the Paris Agreement (COP21) and to strengthen the dialogue on climate policies.
Many of the cities that met in Bonn also belong to the C40 network, which brings together more than 90 cities to combat the impacts of climate change by working collaboratively. The main objectives include “reducing greenhouse gases and increasing the health and well-being of citizens”.
This network alone represents “more than 650 million people and a quarter of the world economy”, making cities a priority when it comes to addressing this problem.
An example of this commitment is reflected in the short documentary released on the internet on the work of 6 cities: Bogota, Cape Town, New York, Paris, Portland and Seoul.
In reality, the next step is for us, as individuals, to also be aware that these measures are not intended to make our lives more difficult. On the contrary, they will allow us to live in the future.
The trick is to change some habits, with small gestures, however insignificant they may seem. More than 7,000 million small gestures can defeat climate change.
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