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The air that you breath

By: Dave Robbins
10 October 2016

A recently published World Health Authority (WHO) Report has shown that urban air pollution is getting worse.
As a result, more than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. According to the WHO, in high income countries, 56% of cities with populations in excess of 100,000 people fail to meet the guidelines. People living in cities in lower income countries fare much worse.

So, with all this pollution, the onward drive of clean, green electric cars has to be the answer? Well yes and no, says research published by the European Environment Agency. Their worry is that widespread use of electric vehicles and hybrids will pose challenges for Europe’s power grid because of increased demand for electricity. In fact, whilst electric vehicles have the potential to reduce emissions in big cities, the overall benefits would be small because most countries still generate the largest part of their electricity by burning fossil fuels.

With the EU committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by the year 2050, it leaves urban planners in something of a Catch 22 situation, particularly as the report also predicts continued growth in traffic levels.

So what’s the answer? At the moment it’s one that committed car commuters won’t like. The report concludes that the way forward is a reduction in non-motorised transport in and around big cities. To achieve this would require a greater use of public transport as well as more cycling and walking. The authors also suggest a move away from rigid 9-5 working hours, with a more flexible working day that would smooth out traffic flows and lessen the pressure on arterial roads in the morning and evening.

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