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Global mayors seize post-COVID initiative

"Did you hear about Milan?” exclaimed a friend based in continental Europe.

No,” I said, not without a faint whiff of apprehension.

“They’re using the lockdown to reduce traffic,” she explained with glee. “In the central area where there used to be two-way double lanes – so four lanes of engines that were idling half the time, pumping out fumes ‘cos there were so many vehicles the traffic could barely move – they’ve cut it down to one lane each way.

“The other lanes are to expand cycling and pedestrian accessibility, green spaces, outdoor cafes and such. It is so obviously the right thing, you wonder why every city isn’t doing it.”

You do indeed wonder.

(Milan Darsena. Photo by Federico Travaini on Unsplash)

Commonplace killer

Air pollution is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to cause seven million early deaths a year worldwide, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

Global deaths involving the COVID-19 coronavirus were just over 280,000 at time of writing, with some of the worst outcomes in heavily polluted areas. As capital of Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit area, Milan is keen to take advantage of lockdown to create a cleaner future in a region where air pollution has long been a concern.

Why is air pollution not a ‘pandemic’? Well, pandemic is defined by the WHO as ‘the worldwide spread of a new disease’.

Deaths from wood and coal smoke, smogs and fogs and industrialisation have been chronicled for centuries. Not new at all. In modern times, widespread affordability and enlarged expectations have made the former luxuries of motor cars and air or ship travel rampant contributors to air contamination.

As lockdown hit the Pause button on transport as well as industry, leading to significantly cleaner air across the planet, emerging reports showed evidence of correspondingly reduced early deaths from air pollution.

C40 mayors stake claim for cleaner cities

Which means that whatever your views on climate change, you are likely to be favourably impressed by a new initiative from the mayors of major cities worldwide representing millions of citizens. The city-led C40 grouping, whose 96 members together represent one quarter of the global economy, has set up the Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.

Heading it up, the Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala.

(Milan's Bosco verticale. Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash)

As the benefits to people and planet of drastically reduced emissions from air and ground travel became more visible, mayors from Bogota to Hong Kong grabbed the initiative from vacillating political figures caught in the blame game, vowing that recovery would not be a case of ‘business as usual’, and pledging  

“a better, more sustainable and fairer society out of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.”

You can read their manifesto and see if your city’s mayor is involved here.


Posted by Tree Elven on 20/05/2020

Keywords: Green Recovery, C40 Group, global mayors, sustainable cities, post-COVID recovery, green cities, environment, climate change, air pollution, city cycling

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