World Car Free Day is celebrated on September 22, throughout the world and encourages motorists to give up their cars for a day. The event highlights the numerous benefits of going car free, including reduced air pollution and the promotion of walking and cycling in a safer environment.
Car-free days are an opportunity for cities to highlight how congested roads can be used in different ways. From races for alternative-energy powered vehicles in Budapest, to horse-riding in São Paulo, to street picnics in Vienna, to running in Jakarta, cities and the people who live in them are stressing the alternatives to polluting vehicles on this important day.
Air pollution caused by transport
Car-free days are a massive opportunity for cities to realise just how much pollution affects our lives. Vehicle emissions are one of the main sources of outdoor air pollution, particularly in cities. Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million death sin 2016, according to the World Health Organization and transport is also the fastest growing source of fossil fuel CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to climate change.
Vehicle emissions are the result of poor fuel quality and weak vehicle regulation around the world. The UN has launched an initiative to support countries, address urban air pollution through the adoption of cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicle technologies and standards.
It is recognized for successfully supporting countries to phase out leaded gasoline. The results of going car-free are clear to see. For instance, the first “journée sans voiture” (day without a car) in Paris, France was held in September 2015 and was found to reduce exhaust emissions by 40 per cent.
“Most cities have been designed around mobility for cars, and it is high time we change this and start designing cities around human mobility,” says Rob de Jong, Head of UN Environment’s Air Quality and Mobility Unit.
In my own home town, some major roads will be closed to traffic for a day as part of World Car Free Day and the first of 11 such days planned by the city council. It is estimated that around 60,000 people drive into the city centre in my town alone, every weekday morning causing traffic congestion and high pollution levels.
There has been talk about beyond 2040, the challenge is to reduce hard-to-abate carbon emissions. Looking beyond 2040, in order to meet the Paris climate goals, remaining emissions would also need to be greatly reduced in the second half of the century and offset with negative emissions.
Governments and countries must all work together, to act now to make sure we meet reducing carbon emissions earlier than 2040. The world is already at risk now, through climate change. We must do our bit also.