The mayor of Paris, City of Lights, announced Saturday that starting Monday morning, the number of cars permitted to drive in the city would be reduced by half in an effort to fight a “pollution emergency.”
Cars with plates ending in odd numbers, hybrid or electric vehicles, cars with more than three passengers, and public transportation — now free in the city and surrounding towns — would be the only ways to move around in Paris. Electric vehicle and bicycle sharing programs would also cost nothing while the ban stayed in place.
The pollution began to spike on Wednesday, and Paris saw its air quality become the worst in the world for a time according to Plume Labs, surpassing even China and India’s heavily-polluted cities. Plume Labs categorized Paris’ air pollution levels as near “critical” on Wednesday and again on Saturday, which means that the impacts will be rapidly felt and concerning to all.
A similar pollution emergency last March caused the French capital to make all public transportation free.
The Eiffel Tower, where technicians recently installed vertical axis wind turbines to power the commercial areas of its first floor, was not visible to many Parisians last week.
— Romain Lacombe (@rlacombe) March 20, 2015
Paris is also looking to ban the most heavy-polluting vehicles in the long term, in an attempt to avoid future incidents.
“We’re already investing heavily in improving public transport and the most polluting cars [diesel cars made before 2001] will be banned starting in July,” a spokesperson for Paris’s transport commissioner, said. The mayor opposes a congestion charge in the style of London or New York because she feels it is unjust.
Concern about the extreme air pollution extended to Britain, where smog levels hit nine out of ten in parts of the Isles.
“Winds bringing in pollution from the continent, combined with locally generated pollution and still weather conditions, have led to some high pollution measurements across the U.K.,” said a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo asked residents to commit to carpooling (“covoiturage”) on Twitter, with the hashtag #urgencepollution, or “pollution emergency.”
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) March 22, 2015
Hidalgo also tweeted that “I am delighted the state has agreed to put in place a partial driving ban on Monday, which I have been requesting for several days.”
The World Health Organization’s cancer agency announced it had sufficient evidence to classify outdoor air pollution as “carcinogenic to humans.” Particulate matter is a major component of outdoor air pollution and is also known to cause cancer — mainly lung cancer but also bladder cancer.
In December of this year, Paris will play host to the critical U.N. climate summit, which many hope will commit the world to reining in carbon pollution, of which burning fossil fuel is the main source. In October, the EU committed to cutting emissions 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels.