Paris, the French capital of 2.2 million residents, is the newest member of the BreatheLife campaign.
La Ville-Lumière is again at the forefront of a European movement— this time, one to cut city dwellers’ exposure to problematic levels of road traffic emissions, notably ozone and its precursor nitrogen dioxide.
In fact, road traffic is the main local source of nitrogen dioxide pollution and fine (PM10) and very fine (PM2.5) particulate pollutants in the Greater Paris region, with a small but significant contribution from wood heating in open hearths.
The grand plan, by 2030, is to have only electric or hydrogen-fuelled vehicles allowed on the roads of Greater Paris, phased in over time.
Its Low Emission Zone— the first in France— already sees all Euro 1 and Euro 2 diesel vehicles banned in the metropolis from 8am to 8pm since 1 July 2017, and all Euro 3 diesel vehicles disallowed from 2019.
The city has introduced Crit’Air, a labelling system that allows cars to be ranked according to their emissions.
The City of Paris is also giving making grants available to help taxi drivers switch to more environmentally friendly vehicles, and subsidizing the installation of electric charging points.
While polluting vehicles are on their way out, non-motorized transport is being enticed in: the City gives Parisians benefits worth up to €600 towards the purchase of a new bicycle or a public transport pass, or to join a car-sharing scheme— if they scrap their cars or motorbikes; and small businesses can claim up to €9,000 in subsidies for an electric truck or bus.
The City has been gradually combining these measures with visible signals of what is to come, giving over increasing road space to extensive bus lanes and bicycle tracks, and closing off a major stretch of road along the river Seine to traffic.
It intends to double the bicycle lane network, stretching it out from 700 kilometres to 1,400 kilometres by 2020, a measure which supports a population that already relies regularly on bike-sharing to get around.
“We are committed to continuing the policy of reducing traffic and the development of alternative mobility to the car, establishing the infrastructure for emissions-free mobility and providing people with the incentive to switch, and, in 2024, the removal of diesel vehicles in Paris,” said Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.
“Cutting air pollution emissions and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change are complementary, and there is a big potential gain for public health and liveability of our city, so, for us, taking this action is a logical decision,” she said.
Those public health benefits could be considerable. In 2016, the City found that 1.4 million of its residents were exposed to annual nitrogen dioxide concentrations that exceeded European limits and 200,000 people to PM10 concentrations above European thresholds for more than 35 days in the year. It also found that the whole population of Île de France, the region in which Paris is the capital, was exposed to annual concentrations of PM2.5— the most harmful air pollutant from traffic— higher than World Health Organization standards.
“The City of Paris is convinced that air pollution represents a major health risk for all, and that measures must be taken at all levels of society to raise awareness of the issues and act to improve the health and well-being of the people,” she said.
The City also places emphasis on public awareness to ensure support for these policies, fronted with a number of regular events, famous among them Paris Respire, which sees major roads in the city centre closed to vehicles on the first Sunday of each month. The annual Journée Sans Voiture (Car-Free Day) has become an annual fixture on the city’s calendar, giving over iconic streets to pedestrians and non-motorized transport.
Parisians are kept informed of their air quality regularly by Airparif, which assumes this responsibility for the Île de France region under a national law that requires air quality monitoring to be done by independent, non-profit organizations.
In a testament to citizens’ concern about air quality, which runs into “pollution peaks” on a seasonal basis, recent years have seen Parisians proposing to augment Airparif’s information with local or even portable sensors to provide new, local information about air pollution, as part of the participative budget process of the city.
They are encouraged to find solutions, too: Airparif works with the City of Paris, the Metropole du Grand Paris and the Région Ile de France to run AirLAB, an incubator for innovative solutions for air quality, which links startups, major companies, research institutes and public authorities to find solutions to urban air pollution.
Paris comes to the BreatheLife campaign with bold ongoing and planned measures and lessons on its clean air journey that could light the way for other cities, too.
Follow Paris’ clean air journey here.