Is your city taking action for clean air?

Air pollution is a global problem, with 99% of the world’s population living in areas where air quality exceeds safe limits. Air pollution is particularly acute in low- and middle-income countries, where 91% of premature deaths due to poor air quality occur.

In cities, motor vehicles are the number one cause of air pollution, which has serious health consequences such as asthma, cancer, and heart and lung conditions while contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Mayors worldwide are addressing these challenges by promoting public transport, walking and cycling, creating low and zero-emission areas, and transitioning to electric vehicles.

Keep reading to learn about how mayors of C40 cities are making their cities more liveable, safer, and healthier while reducing emissions.

London’s low-emission zone is cleaning the air, protecting health and reducing costs

Central London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) was launched in April 2019 and has had a transformative effect on air quality in the city. It is designed to help London meet UK legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fulfil C40 Chair and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s ambition of achieving the World Health Organization interim target for PM2.5 (particulate matter) by 2030.

Ultra Low Emission Zone in London
© Harry Mitchell / AP Images for C40

Within the first ten months, it helped to reduce NO2 concentrations within the zone by 44% and PM2.5 concentrations by 27%. By late 2019, the number of Londoners living in areas with illegal NO2 levels had declined by 90% from 2016 levels.

It is estimated that ULEZ will prevent 250,000 new cases of NO2 and PM2.5 related disease and 1.1 million new air pollution-related hospital admissions Londonwide by 2050. This will result in a cost saving for the UK’s National Health Service and social care system of £4.2 billion. The expansion of the ULEZ has made the air safer for more than 255,000 people living with lung conditions in central London.

Cleaning Amman’s air for all

In June 2022, the Greater Amman Municipality took a significant step towards a sustainable future by establishing a Smart Roadmap for the city. This roadmap included the placement of air quality sensors in the most traffic-congested areas of Amman, enabling the monitoring of air pollution levels.

Amman has taken concrete measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector, one of the major contributors to the city’s air pollution. The city launched a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Network, which expands public transit and provides more accessible options for commuters. In addition to this, the municipality has increased walkability around BRT stations and corridors, encouraging people to use public transportation instead of private vehicles.

As part of this initiative, the city also introduced 135 new buses, providing more sustainable transportation options. The plan includes the introduction of 151 more buses in 2023, further bolstering Amman’s commitment to sustainable transport and reducing carbon emissions. The measures are a clear example of the city’s effort to achieve a greener future with cleaner air.

Expanding low-emission zones and walking and cycling in Lima

Lima‘s Respira Limpio campaign is working to reduce vehicle emissions by identifying vehicles with high emissions and facilitating their repair. The campaign has been scaled up significantly over the past few years, increasing from ten operations in nine municipalities in 2019 upto 47 operations in 29 municipalities in 2021.

Additionally, Lima’s Damero de Pizarro is a historic centre where a low-emission zone has been established, reflecting the city’s commitment to reducing emissions and improving air quality. With the assistance of C40’s Air Quality Technical Assistance Programme, Lima has conducted air quality and health analyses of various vehicle restriction scenarios within the low emission zone. 

The outcomes of the analyses will feed into a UKAID-funded C40 project focused on implementing and expanding the low-emission zone – including vehicle restrictions and increasing walking and cycling infrastructure – to help the city achieve commitments set by the C40 Clean Air Accelerator.

Expanding Shenzhen’s electric transport fleet

Shenzhen began procuring zero-emission buses in 2009 as part of a national Chinese programme calling for ten cities to deploy at least 1,000 electric vehicles. 

The city finished electrifying its entire transport fleet in 2017, totalling 16,000 electric buses and 22,000 electric taxis. This has reduced air pollution emissions and also carbon emissions by 194,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually when compared with conventional diesel buses.

Shenzhen, China - October 22, 2019: BYD Electric Bus driving near train station. Shenzhen, the ultra-modern city with 15 million people is located in southern China.
© Nikada / Getty Images

This has helped the city to have one of the lowest air pollution rates of larger cities in China, ranked seventh among 74 first-stage cities in terms of its air quality in 2013. The programme’s success is the result of strong government support, innovation and learnings from pilot projects in China.

Creating walking and cycling-friendly areas in Bengaluru

Bengaluru has successfully implemented pedestrianisation projects and transformed its roads into more walkable and cycle-friendly streets, resulting in improved air quality and a more sustainable city centre. 

One successful example includes the Church Street First initiative, which sees this busy street in the Central Business District of Bengaluru become pedestrian-only on weekends. A study by IISc showed significant improvements in air quality on Church Street during pedestrianised weekends, with PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations remaining within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for most weekends.

The project’s success has led the city to expand the initiative; Commercial Street, another busy location in Bengaluru’s city centre, has also been converted into a pedestrian-only zone. The city plans to implement similar projects in other busy areas, such as Gandhi Bazaar Street and Malleshwaram 8th Cross, to improve walkability and air quality.
Additionally, Bengaluru’s TenderSure Project has transformed 55 km of roads into more walkable and cycle-friendly streets, with plans to expand the project to include more roads and make the city centre even more pedestrian and pedestrian cyclist-friendly.

Scaling up air quality monitoring and low-emission zones in Bogotá

On the 2022 United Nations International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, Mayor of Bogotá and C40 Vice Chair, Claudia López, launched Latin America’s largest air quality microsensor network – a significant step to improve air quality and public health in the city. 

The network of 210 new air quality sensors, which will become the largest in Latin America, will be deployed over the next three years to monitor and inform efforts to improve the city’s air quality in priority areas. With C40’s support, the city is developing an air quality monitoring plan to strengthen the technical information that underpins the city’s Clean Air Urban Areas (Zonas Urbanas por un Mejor Aire, or “ZUMA”) design and evaluation. 

In parallel, Bogotá and C40 are developing a ZUMA implementation roadmap and communications strategy to build support for the low-emission zone launch, engaging locals and key stakeholders who are united in action to clean the air for Bogotá residents.

People cycling in Bogota
© holgs / Getty Images

Policies helping Seoul’s resident to breathe easier

Seoul has made significant progress in addressing air pollution by implementing its Air Quality Control Action Plan (2020–2024). The plan encompasses 64 projects covering four key areas: emissions reduction, public health protection, domestic and overseas cooperation, and public engagement. 

In 2021, the city achieved a record low of 20㎍/㎥ for PM2.5 levels, a reduction from 25㎍/㎥ in 2019 and 21㎍/㎥ in 2020. This success can be attributed to various measures such as the deployment of cleaner and more energy-efficient boilers, transportation initiatives including battery electric vehicles deployment, the scrappage and upgrading of older vehicles, and implementing a Green Transport Zone.

Additionally, the city has tightened construction site inspections, leading to stricter regulations on dust and pollution at large construction sites, and retrofitting of old construction machinery to help reduce pollution.

C40 will join C40 Chair and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan during London Climate Action Week from 24 June–2 July, alongside global partners who are united in action to create a net-zero, equitable and resilient future.

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