Proactive rather than reactive initiatives
The problem is most pressing in the megacities of India and China, places like Beijing and New Delhi, but smaller cities in the USA and Europe are also suffering from increasing air pollution. How do cities tackle this challenge – and are they doing enough?
- Over the last 20-50 years, mobility and road safety have far and away been the predominant objectives of most large transportation and infrastructure projects conducted worldwide. Some countries have implemented legislation and other initiatives aimed at reducing air pollution from traffic. Most of these initiatives, however, tend to be reactive, not proactive, and we rarely see air quality as an end in itself when new large transportation and infrastructure projects are being developed, says Julia C. Lester, PhD, a former air regulator, now a principal and air quality expert at Ramboll Environ.
Some cities are trying to reduce human exposure to harmful pollutants from urban transport sources by reducing pollutants from mobile sources, limiting the number of people exposed to elevated concentrations of these pollutants and minimising the duration of their exposure.
Cities can reach these goals by implementing air quality management strategies that target automotive technology and fuels and by improving urban transport management as a whole.
- Although there are no universal air quality management strategies applicable to every city in the world, evidence suggests that a comprehensive, sustainable urban mobility approach would have a significant impact on emission reductions and result in extensive co-benefits through local improvements, says Julia Lester.
Such approaches include providing cycling and walking facilities or attractive and reliable alternatives to the private vehicle. Another option is to institute restrictions on car use or to produce cleaner technology and fuels for vehicles. Good land-use planning practices and advanced goods movement and logistics systems could also make significant contributions, as could monetary incentives created through the appropriate economic instruments.
The latest WHO estimates and multiple national/state air initiatives will spur companies to devise further measures to improve air quality.