Paris policymakers want to ban all gasoline and diesel-powered cars from the City of Light by 2030. City council members in Oxford, England are pursuing a similar measure, with a plan to make their city the first zero-emission city in Britain by 2035. The proposals represent a bold policy approach to reducing carbon emissions and come at a time when city leaders are increasingly averse to pollution, according to Cornell University researchers.
David Kay is a senior extension associate with the Community and Regional Development Institute at Cornell University and a fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. He says cities around the world can learn from “policy innovation” in Oxford and Paris.
“The pressing need to reduce carbon emissions requires policy innovation and experimentation. Local governments are on the front lines in this respect. Cities can benefit especially from transforming their transportation systems.
“Transportation accounts for an important slice of total carbon emissions – 14 percent globally, and 27 percent in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Urbanizing trends continue apace in most countries, and automobiles — currently powered by fossil fuels — tend to have the most disadvantages in cities: consider traffic jams, street level air quality, accidents and neighborhood quality of life, and parking hassles.
“Whether the experiments incentivizing electric cars pursued by places like Oxford or Paris ultimately prove to be the best solutions or not, the fact that these cities are policy innovators will help many other cities learn from them."
Mildred Warner, a professor in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University, is an expert on environmental sustainability at the local level and restructuring local government services. She says that within this century, most vehicles in cities will be powered by electricity or natural gas.
“In a 2015 survey we conducted with the International City County Management Association, we found 26 percent of responding U.S. cities had increased the purchase of hybrid, electric, or other fuel-efficient vehicles, and 16 percent had installed charging stations for electric vehicles.
“Industry is working to design larger scale urban service vehicles, such as garbage trucks, to run on methane generated from garbage collection.”