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Mayors of 35 major cities sign pledge to drastically reduce air pollution by 2025

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Mayors from 35 major cities around the world have signed a pledge to deliver clean air for the combined 140 million people that live in their cities.

The C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, which was signed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan among the signatories, declares that clean air is a “human right” and could encourage tree planting while penalising cars drivers, among other initiatives.

The Declaration was unveiled at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen, an event that occurs once every three years and is designed to implement “substantive clean air policies by 2025”.

“Air pollution is a global crisis and, as mayors, it is our fundamental responsibility to protect our citizens from the dangerous health implications associated with breathing dirty air,” Khan said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 9 in 10 citizens around the world breathe dirty air and seven million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Typically, it is the poorest and most vulnerable communities that are most affected by dirty, polluted air.

“This dirty air kills seven million people a year, largely in cities, and contributes to the global climate emergency,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the C40 summit in Copenhagen.

By signing the pledge, mayors commit to using their power and influence to reduce air pollution and work towards meeting the WHO’s Air Quality Guidelines.

This means cities will continually reduce their local emissions and advocate for reductions in regional emissions, resulting in continuous declines in air pollution levels that move towards the WHO guidelines.

Signatories are obliged to set ambitious pollution reduction targets within two years that meet or exceed national commitments, implement substantive clean air policies by 2025 that address the unique causes of pollution in their cities and publicly report progress on achieving these goals.

“Mayors have a wide array of tools at their disposal for improving air quality, including expanding low- or zero-carbon public transport; creating zero-emissions zones; requiring and promoting cleaner fuels for heating and cooking; enhancing incentives and infrastructure to support walking and cycling, and establishing city-wide air quality monitoring,” C40 Cities said.

The mayors met in the Danish capital - a former Viking village, now a city of wind turbines - days after climate-change protesters took to the streets in countries across the world from Austria to New Zealand, pledging two weeks of peaceful civil disobedience.

Delegates at the summit opening were met on Wednesday by demonstrators from local group Klima Aktion DK, armed with fake binoculars made from toilet rolls.

“Our message to the C40 Mayors is: The people are watching you! We want to see action!” the group wrote on Facebook.

Cities signing the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration are:

Amman, Austin, Bengaluru, Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Delhi, Dubai, Durban (eThekwini), Guadalajara, Heidelberg, Houston, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Lima, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Medellin, Mexico City, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Portland, Quezon City, Quito, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington D.C.

At the summit, the C40 network cited seven award-winning initiatives as examples that have been used to improve air quality:

  • Medellin, Colombia - Colombia’s second city has invested more than $16m to plant almost 9,000 trees to form 30 “green corridors” across the city since 2016. Besides capturing pollution, the plants have helped reduce average temperatures in the city by 2° Celsius and increased biodiversity, providing friendly habitats for animals.
  • Accra, Ghana - Since 2016, Accra has been working with more than 600 informal refuse collectors, who used to dump rubbish that was burned at illegal open-air sites, causing pollution. More waste is now being collected, recycled and disposed of safely.
  • Kolkata, India - Kolkata is planning to have its entire 5,000-strong bus fleet, as well as ferries crossing the Ganges River, run on electricity by 2030. It has bought 80 electric buses and plans to add another 100 next year.
  • London, United Kingdom - London introduced the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019, requiring all vehicles passing through the city centre to meet strict emissions standards or pay a fee. Within months, the number of more polluting vehicles fell by a third, as people were pushed to walk, cycle or use public transport.
  • San Francisco, United States - San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF programme allows residents to get their electricity completely or in large part from renewable sources at competitive rates. The city hopes this will help it achieve a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2025.
  • Guangzhou, China - Since 2017, Guangzhou has invested $2.1bn to convert its entire fleet of 11,220 buses to run on electricity and installed some 4,000 charging stations to power them. This has reduced air pollution and noise as well as the city’s transport system operational costs.
  • Seoul, South Korea - Seoul has subsidised the installation of solar panels on balconies and rooftops of one million homes since 2017, as well as city buildings such as schools and parking lots. The city hopes to produce up to 1GW of solar energy - equal to that generated by a nuclear reactor - by 2022.

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