Paris is banning cars. Here's why U.S. cities need to follow suit — basically now.
Paris' romantic air just got more breathable, and its world-famous streets more stroll-able.
The city's government unveiled an ambitious plan to ban gas-powered cars from the city by the end of the next decade.
"We have planned the end of thermic vehicle use, and therefore of fossil energies, by 2030," Christophe Nadjovski, Paris deputy mayor in charge of transportation, told France Info radio.
The city's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, had already announced a plan to ban diesel-powered vehicles from the city by 2024.
The French capital is the latest in a string of European cities cracking down on cars.
Oslo recently announced plans to ban parking spaces by 2019. Madrid plans to ban gas-powered cars from the bulk of its city center by 2020.
These moves may seem drastic, but recent research suggests many more similarly extreme steps could be necessary to avert climate catastrophe.
A University of Michigan study recently released estimates the U.S. automotive and electricity industries have fewer than nine years to take large-scale emission-limiting action before runaway warming becomes the most probable outcome.
The Los Angeles skyline in 2015. Photo by Mark Ralston/Getty Images.
"If we do not act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions forcefully prior to the 2020 election, costs to reduce emissions at a magnitude and timing consistent with averting dangerous human interference with the climate will skyrocket," Steven Skerlos, University of Michigan professor of mechanical engineering, said in a news release announcing the results. "That will only make the inevitable shift to renewable energy less effective in maintaining a stable climate system throughout the lives of children already born."
Some U.S. cities and states are taking steps to reduce vehicle emissions within their borders.
In May, California regulators announced stringent targets for reducing carbon emissions over the next eight years, including a requirement that automakers sell a higher percentage of low-emission vehicles in the state. A month later, a coalition of 30 mayors, three state governors, and over 100 businesses petitioned the United Nations to join the Paris Climate Accord, in the wake of the Trump administration's announced decision to withdraw from the agreement.
In August, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his administration was exploring congestion pricing — a toll on cars that enter certain central regions of New York City, though similar proposals have previously floundered in the state's legislature.
Could an enterprising American metropolis follow Paris' lead and banish gas-powered motor vehicles entirely?
With 218 million licensed drivers in the U.S., it's a tall political order.
But, to save the planet, they might have to go the extra mile.