European cities leading global shift towards cleaner transport

Oslo, London and Amsterdam are leading a shift by major cities worldwide to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from transport, assisted by new technologies to help curb climate change and reduce air pollution, according to a new study.

The independent Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in London conducted the study, sponsored by smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm, which ranked cities according to a set of environmental criteria, gauging existing policies and plans to promote greener transport with solutions such as electric cars and bicycles.

European cities filled eight of the top 10 spots, along with Tokyo and Seoul, in the list of 35 cities. “Oslo is set to be the world's first city with a zero-emissions transportation solution”, the CEBR report concludes.

The Norwegian capital’s metro, trams and buses already run largely on hydro-electricity and Norway has the highest percentage of electric cars of any nation. The Oslo council also plans to sharply restrict cars entering its city centre.

The report said second-placed London “may not seem an example of a green city to all residents”, but most rely on public transport rather than cars and are among the most energy-efficient urban dwellers in the world.

“London is somewhat unfairly considered a smoggy, dark city,” CEBR managing economist Nina Skero told Reuters.

London also wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels by 2025 and has promoted electric cars and bike-sharing, the report identified.

Amsterdam, in third place, has done more than almost any other city to promote cycling and to cut emissions, it said.

CEBR’s index included city air pollution as one of 20 factors. Among the others are city carbon emissions, levels of congestion, public investments in infrastructure, green spaces, charging points for electric vehicles, incentives for green travel and city commitments to low emissions.

Oslo Vice Mayor Lan Marie Nguyen Berg welcomed the report. “Our ambition is to have a zero-emission transport system in 2030 at the latest,” she said.

Electric cars made up almost 11 per cent of the traffic passing toll booths into Oslo in January 2017 alone, up from seven per cent for the whole of 2016. “The largest challenge, I believe, is lorries, trucks and construction,” Berg added.

Cairo was bottom of the list of 35 cities, below Nairobi, Mumbai and Istanbul, reflecting population growth and a focus on ending poverty that often means burning more gasoline.

Skero said the ranking was a snapshot of current policies and that Oslo could be overtaken.

Many cities have set more ambitious goals for restricting emissions than national governments after nearly 200 countries reached a climate agreement in Paris in 2015 to shift the world economy away from fossil fuels.

US President Donald Trump, who doubts that global warming is a man-made phenomenon, is considering pulling out of the Paris Agreement. However, Trump’s attempts to repeal climate change regulations put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, have been hampered by a legal challenge from a coalition of 17 US states.

San Francisco was the top-ranked city in the US – coming in at 14th place – where heavy reliance on cars rather than public transport limits options for cities to introduce radical goals to phase out emissions, the study said.

The report is available as a PDF online:

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