Paris has a carbon emissions problem. Those emissions have made Paris one of the smoggiest cities in Europe. The city government has tried banning cars altogether on certain days. It now requires the roof tops of all new buildings be covered either in carbon dioxide absorbing greenery or solar panels. It has one of the largest car sharing fleets of any city in the world and an active bicycle sharing network.
As of July 1, it will prohibit any automobile manufactured prior to 1997 from driving on its streets on weekdays. Why? Older cars make up only 10% of the cars on the road in Paris, but they account for nearly half of all carbon emissions in the city. Older diesel engine cars are a big part of the problem.
After the OPEC oil embargoes in the 1970’s, France and most other European countries adopted policies that strongly favored diesel vehicles. The tax on diesel fuel was lowered to make driving a diesel the preferred choice for economy minded drivers. As a result, well over half of all cars in France today are diesels.
The diesel engine does get better fuel economy than a gasoline engine. Unfortunately, it also spews out far more pollutants, especially NOx and particulates, both of which are major contributors to the formation of smog. While regulators were encouraging people to drive a diesel to save fuel, they neglected to address the diesel emissions problem. As a result, diesels built before 1997 have rudimentary pollution control systems if they have any at all.
The ban will also apply to motorcycles manufactured prior to 2000. It will not apply on weekends and holidays.
Paris is also rethinking its commitment to the automobile. It has begun redesigning some of its major intersections such as the Place de la Bastille. Now a place with heavy traffic everywhere, one side of the historic location will soon be reconnected to the curb. When completed next year, it will feature a green space with seating areas and pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The project began with the Place de la République in 2013. The city approved a redesign that created a pedestrian plaza planted with trees and lined with benches. Other such projects are to follow. In all, 7 major intersections will be redesigned to promote travel within the city on foot and by bicycle.
Source and photo credit: Inhabitat