The European Mobility Week: opening conference in London

Jean de Pommereu of IPF UK attended the opening conference of the European Mobility Week. The Polar Regions may be far from the minds of CO2 emitting motorists stuck in urban traffic jams, but their delicate ecosystems is directly dependent on transport policies and fossil fuel consumption in our increasingly urban world. Indeed, their melting ice caps and retreating sea ice are veritable time bombs which will affect the whole planet if we do not cut back emissions and find new solutions to such necessities as the transportation of goods and people.

In this context, the In Motion - Visions of Urban Mobility and Clean Air conference which took place at City Hall in London on the 15th and 16th of September as part of the European Mobility week, tried to address the pressing need for change with keynote speakers such as Stavros Dima, EU Commissioner for the Environment; Ben Bradshaw, UK Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare; Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London; and Michael Krzyzanowski, Regional Adviser Air Quality and Health at the World Health Organisation.

Ken Livingstone in particular, highlighted the problem through the example of London, a city where 1600 people die each year from the effects of poor air quality and which consumes 17 times its fare share of energy. Facing this huge problem, Mr Linvingstone underlined new and recent policies intended to reduce traffic emissions, including charging motorists entering the centre of the city (thus encouraging the use of public transport); encouraging hybrid cars by lifting charges for this type of vehicle; increasing the number of hybrid buses; extending and bicycle lanes and setting a target to reduce CO2 emissions to pre 1990 levels by 2010.

Small as they may be in the face of global climate trends, these efforts at least have the merit of addressing the issue and of encouraging other cities to follow suit, perhaps with even boulder initiatives. In the words of Nicky Gavron, Deputy Mayor of London: "Cities are centre stage for climate change and there isn't a moment to loose."