In 1992, the United Nations reported that Mexico City was the most polluted city on the planet. Thanks to a series of comprehensive programmes – named ProAire – over the last two decades the city has recorded impressive reductions in local air pollution as well as CO2 emissions. Mexico City has shown outstanding commitment to its ProAire programmes, which have become increasingly comprehensive and ambitious. Although the city has seen definite progress, it recognizes there is still a long way to go.
The city’s government, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Environment Commission, has implemented four consecutive programmes since the first ProAire launched in 1990. Mexico’s measures to improve air quality have been diverse, from closing the city’s most polluting factories to banning cars one day per week in the city´s metropolitan area. Its BRT Metrobus system launched in 2005 as part of the ProAire III program is the longest such system in Latin America. The city’s Ecobici bike-sharing programme is also the largest in the region, and has been replicated in other Latin American cities. Although Mexico City has already made great strides in improving its air quality, it remains proactive in tackling the challenges that remain. The ProAire IV programme, launched in 2011 and running until 2020, contains 89 measures and 116 separate actions across eight strategy areas, including energy consumption, greening of the municipal transport fleets, education, green areas and reforestation, capacity building and scientific research.
ProAire is working. Mexico City’s success in tackling air pollution has helped to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from urban transport. The city recently recorded a 7.7m tonnes reduction in carbon emissions in just four years (2008 to 2012), beating a 7.0m tonnes target. To make further progress, the city recognizes it needs to get the public on board, and has dedicated more resources to education programmes and public awareness campaigns. There is no quick fix, but Mexico City’s decades-long efforts are showing that comprehensive approaches, and openness to the best ideas, can make a huge difference and be an inspiration for other major cities in the world.