The future is now: driving the car-free city revolution – The New European
Transport is the only sector where greenhouse gas emissions have increased in the past three decades. Now a backlash is growing, with forward-thinking mayors spearheading new visions of urban centres
“Just because you’ve bought a car it doesn’t mean you’ve also bought 10 square metres of public space to leave it on,” Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, mayor of the Spanish city of Pontevedra, tells me, firmly.
Once you accept this, he explains in the week that Europe smouldered and hundreds died in an unprecedented heatwave, you’re on your way to saving the planet by challenging the entitlement felt by car owners and purging cities of their domineering climate-destroying vehicles.
Who owns public space? It’s the question at the heart of a defining battle of the climate emergency era. From London to Oslo, through Paris and Barcelona to the Balkans, the fight is on to reduce the burgeoning number and impact of cars – which accounted for nearly a quarter of the European Union’s Co2 emissions in 2019. For decades the answer has been motorists, but this has to change if humanity is to combat what United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres called the “collective suicide” of rampant climate change.