A proposal to rid European Union cities of cars by 2050

The European Commission, part of the European Union, recently proposed getting rid of “conventionally fueled cars” in all EU cities by 2050:

Top of the EU’s list to cut climate change emissions is a target of “zero” for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU’s future cities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto “alternative” means of transport.

“That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres,” he said. “Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour.”

The Association of British Drivers rejected the proposal to ban cars as economically disastrous and as a “crazy” restriction on mobility.

“I suggest that he goes and finds himself a space in the local mental asylum,” said Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the BDA.

“If he wants to bring everywhere to a grinding halt and to plunge us into a new dark age, he is on the right track. We have to keep things moving. The man is off his rocker.”

Mr Kallas has denied that the EU plan to cut car use by half over the next 20 years, before a total ban in 2050, will limit personal mobility or reduce Europe’s economic competitiveness.

This would be a radical change, even in countries with lower rates of car ownership and more mass transit use compared to the United States. I can only imagine the outcry if such a plan were introduced in the United States.

It is interesting to see that one British commentator brings up mobility and the economy. I would think mobility is more of a proxy for freedom, the ability for an individual citizen to hop into a car and drive wherever they want. This idea is particular prevalent in America where freedom is paramount and the suburbs are built around this idea of driving where one wants. I’m not sure about the economic issue: surely, cars and related industries (gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.) are an important part of the economy. But I am more skeptical that such a ban would lead to a “new dark age.”

Chart of total carbon emissions and emissions per capita

Miller-McCune has put together two charts showing total carbon emissions by country and also emissions per capita by country. See the two charts here.

This is colorful and vibrant. And it is nice to have the charts side-by-side as one can easily make comparisons. For example, the US is #2 in total emissions but #9 in per capita emissions. As The Infrastructurist points out, the chart gives some insights into how many countries might need to deal with per capita emissions rather than point fingers at countries with the largest amount of carbon emissions.

But there is a lot of information compressed in this chart – it is hard to see a lot of the smaller countries with small circles. Additionally, why are the countries in the order they are? It appears that regions are together but the order is not the same for both charts and it certainly isn’t rank-ordered (China and US are on opposite ends of the chart for total emissions). The color and vibrancy seems to be more important to the chart-makers than having a logical order to the countries.

h/t The Infrastructurist

Considering what the “green Loop” might look like

Amidst talk of eco-cities, a Chicago architectural firm has put together a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent within Chicago’s Loop. How to accomplish this: retrofit older buildings rather than building a lot of new, green buildings.

The architects break what they call the Central Loop into four types of buildings: heritage buildings (1880-1945), which are clad in heat-absorbing masonry and have operable windows; midcentury modern buildings (1945-75), which hog energy due to their vast expanses of glass and heavy reliance on air conditioning; post-energy-crisis buildings (1975-2000), which show greater energy-efficiency but are burdened by an unanticipated rise in computer use; and energy-conscious buildings (2000-present), which continue to improve efficiency but are in relatively short supply.

That brings us to the heart of the matter: The key to cutting pollution isn’t building new green buildings. There simply aren’t enough of them to make a difference. The only way to lower our carbon footprint is to make the buildings we already have more energy-efficient.

That’s possible, as evidenced by the recent transformation of the Merchandise Mart, the massive yet graceful Art Deco commercial and trade show building along the Chicago River. At 4.2 million gross square feet, it’s one of the world’s largest buildings. By taking a variety of steps — from installing energy-saving water pumps to promoting eco-friendly products to the building’s tenants — the Mart cut its overall energy consumption by 21 percent from 2006 to 2010, executives there say.

I wonder how this plan would be received by businesses and building owners. While they suggest energy costs will decrease in the long run and rents may increase, such retrofitting could be costly in the short-term and there could be some anxiety about doing these things in the middle of a tough real estate and business market.

And how much would the City of Chicago really get behind this? Mayor Daley has drawn plaudits in the past for promoting ideas like rooftop gardens but these are limited in number. The City itself faces significant financial troubles in the coming years and I imagine issues like jobs, pensions, crime and the number of police in the streets, will dominate conversations for a while.

I would enjoy seeing their charts or models to see which particular buildings in the Loop use more or less energy. The picture that leads this report on the plan probably shows carbon emissions or energy use by building.