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ENVIRONMENT

Copenhagen best, Rome worst for clean, safe roads: study

Bike-friendly capitals Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Oslo have Europe's cleanest and safest transport systems while heavily congested Rome has the worst, a Greenpeace study found Tuesday.

Copenhagen best, Rome worst for clean, safe roads: study
Cyclists in Copenhagen. Photo: Bjarke Bo Olsen/Ritzau Scanpix

“Safe roads and clean air go hand-in-hand,” said Greenpeace Clean Air campaigner Barbara Stoll.

“This study shows that when you improve a city's public transport infrastructure in a sustainable way, people breathe cleaner air and their roads are safer.”

The report, carried out for Greenpeace by Germany's Wuppertal Institute, ranks 13 European capitals based on factors ranging from air quality to the affordability of public transport and the use of car-sharing services.

Car-and scooter-mad Rome, where 65 percent of all journeys are carried out by privately-owned motor vehicles, was deemed the biggest sinner.

Cheap parking and sub-par public transport discouraged drivers from abandoning their cars, the authors found, worsening the city's air pollution and making its traffic-clogged roads dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Eternal City was also the worst on road safety, the report said, giving the figures of 110 crashes for every 10,000 bicycle trips and 133 crashes for every 10,000 pedestrian trips.

Rome was far from alone in breaching European Union air pollution limits, the report pointed out, and Budapest, Paris and Moscow all fared worse in the air quality ranking.

The report comes just days after the European Commission announced it was taking six countries — including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy — to court for failing to tackle air pollution.

“Many European cities struggle to provide reasonable air quality,” the study said.

“Reducing the share of internal combustion engines should be a priority,” it added.

The study's top three cities Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Oslo won plaudits for their high use of public transport, clearly marked and safe cycling and walking paths and cleaner than average air.

Oslo was singled out for praise for closing its city centre to cars, and Copenhagen ranked first when it came to new mobility services like car-sharing and using smartphone apps to navigate public transport.

Zurich meanwhile has the most affordable public transport, the study found, while London was commended for introducing the congestion charge and more recently the T-charge, which taxes older, more polluting vehicles.

“Top-ranking cities kept in mind the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and other road users while planning,” the report said.

“Cars do not dominate the design, but are just another user of the space.”

The authors said that if Rome wanted to improve its ranking, it should do more to separate cyclists from scooters, and follow the examples of other capitals by making inner-city driving more expensive.

READ ALSO: Danish municipality uses drivers' Bluetooth to solve traffic issues

ENVIRONMENT

‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.

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