Paris to Stop Traffic for A Day to Tackle Climate Change

The Mayor of Paris has announced the campaign, “Une Journée Sans Voiture” – “A Day Without Car,” to stop traffic in the city on September 27th as an action to tackle pollution and climate change.

The campaign serves as a significant example to respond to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to “reshape the world’s transport systems for a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future.”

In March this year as well as in 2014, Paris forced half of its cars off the road in order to reduce heavy smog, and the city even made public transport free for one day (for three days in 2014) to fight air pollution.

Photo: Paris City Hall

But in September, for the first time in the city’s history, no motorized vehicle, with a few exceptions like ambulances, will be allowed to drive on the streets. As Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced in March, “Paris will be completely transformed for a day. This is an opportunity for Parisians and tourists to enjoy the city without noise, pollution and therefore without stress.” 

“A Day Without Car” is part of the Paris’s campaign against pollution and is in line with the European Mobility Week that will take place in the city from September 16 to 22, as well as the major United Nations conference on the climate (COP21) also in Paris in December.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the main health risk posed to the environment in the world’s large cities. A recent report by the French Senate estimated that pollution costs France more than €100 billion each year.

“Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their cars parked at home and take the train instead,” the magazine Fast Company reported.

Other cities including Bogotá, Vancouver and Brussels have instituted Day Without Car programs, some of them permanently and some partially, closing certain streets and encouraging bike riding.

The campaign is an important step to recognize the indispensable role of the transport sector in tackling climate change by reducing GHG emissions. The latest estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that the transport sector contributed nearly 23% of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in 2012. Transport, with an average annual growth rate of 2.0% from 1990-2012, is among the fastest growing sectors of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. A study by the SLoCaT Partnership on the transport sector’s mitigation potential suggest that by 2050, transport sector emissions could be reduced 1% to 79% from 1990 levels, showing that low carbon efforts currently proposed in the transport sector must be scaled up to yield significant reductions. “A Day Without Car” serves as an example of how actions can be implemented on the city level to reduce GHG emissions from the transport sector.