Paris took dramatic steps to tackle its air pollution problems this weekend. The metro was made free of charge to encourage people to take travel by public transport instead of by car. The city authorities also restricted the use of cars in the city by effectively banning half the cars from driving in the city.
The French capital’s air pollution problems show that it is not just London and Beijing, whose poor air quality has been in the news a lot recently, that have issues with air pollution. Yet the decisive action that Paris has taken is in sharp contrast to the UK, where air quality campaigners often criticise politicians for not doing enough on the issue.
This is especially the case in London where Boris has been accused of not doing anything to tackle the problem. However Birmingham is also not doing nearly enough to tackle air pollution. Paris does offer a us glimpse of how bad the problem could get, and what action our politicians might have to take in the future, if we don’t tackle the problem now.
Commenting on car use restrictions in Paris aimed at combating soaring air pollution, our Campaigns Support Worker Julien Pritchard said:
“The French are right to get tough on air pollution – it’s time we did the same in this country too. Tens of thousands of people die prematurely in Britain every year because of poor air quality, and the EU has now launched legal proceedings over our failure to tackle it.
“Poor air quality in Birmingham contributes to over 500 premature deaths per year. Strong and urgent measures are needed, including reducing Birmingham traffic levels, if we are to end this scandal.
“Investing now in alternative forms of travel such as walking and cycling are a must, or in the future Birmingham may have to take similar measures to those we have seen in Paris.”
Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s Let’s Get Moving campaign is calling for greater investment in walking and cycling in order to reduce traffic, the main cause of Birmingham’s poor air quality.