Paris Imposes Car Ban After Air Pollution Hits Record High

Typical Paris gridlock | Image credit: Daxtell

In a bold and understandably unpopular move this week, the City of Paris banned half its motorists from driving their cars and motorcycles on Monday after a series of warm days and cold nights caused the city's worst pollution levels since 2007, BBC News reports.

Part of a scheme to reduce the number of vehicles on the road — and the resulting pollution — the ban was originally planned for Monday and Tuesday; only motorists with odd-numbered number plates were allowed to drive on Monday, and only those with even-numbered plates were to be allowed to travel on Tuesday.

But the Guardian reports that the ban was lifted after a day, when a combination of compliance with the ban and favorable weather conditions improved air quality dramatically. 

"Bravo, and thank you," ecology minister Philippe Martin said as he announced that the proposed alternating driving scheme would end at midnight on Monday.

Prior to the restrictions, Parisians were given free travel on buses, metros and public bikes over the weekend. There were exceptions for taxis, commercial electric and hybrid vehicles and for cars carrying three or more passengers.

While many Parisians showed they were willing to face the 22-euro ($30 USD) fine rather than cancel their commutes, Martin said the majority complied with the restrictions.

Roughly 700 police ran nearly 180 control points around the Paris region, handing out tickets to offenders. Police ticketed nearly 4,000 people by midday on Monday, and 27 drivers had their cars impounded for refusing to cooperate with officers.

While it is easy to focus on the direct negative economic impacts from schemes such as this, environmental issues such as air pollution can have an even larger cost in the long run. Last year, the TEEB for Business Coalition released a study that found the global top 100 environmental externalities are costing the global economy some $4.7 trillion a year in terms of the economic costs of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, loss of natural resources, loss of nature-based services such as carbon storage by forests, climate change and air pollution-related health costs.

Meanwhile, hydrogen fuel cell cars are emerging as great alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles. Hydrogen cars have more than three times the standard range of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), can be refueled in minutes rather than hours and look and handle more like traditional cars. However, a current lack of hydrogen refueling stations is preventing widespread adoption.


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a writer, thinker and strategic communicator who revels in helping drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. He studied Political Science and History at the University of California,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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