Jul 2, 2019 - 11:37 am

Back to the smog cloud: Madrid protests


In Madrid on Saturday, thousands of protestors took to the streets to demand the reinstatement of the city’s anti-pollution laws. Madrid’s newly-elected conservative Mayor has decided to reverse the “Madrid Central” anti-pollution plan that was brought in by his predecessor only last November.

+ + Kindly see our update below + +

The Madrid Central plan was introduced last November to combat the Spanish capital’s pollution problems – as well as aiming to comply with the EU’s clean air rules. The plan prohibited certain petrol and diesel cars from entering a restricted area of around five sq km and fined drivers were fined 90 euros if they did so. Now the new mayor has decided to abolish the plan.

Last Saturday, inner-city streets were blocked with thousands of protestors in soaring temperatures demanding the reinstatement of the Madrid Central plan. One protester, a retired paediatrician, told Spanish newspaper El País he was marching to “defend the population” from pollution. “Pollution is one of the most important health problems now,” he said. A number of environmental groups say the Madrid Central plan was responsible for the lowest recorded levels of nitrogen dioxide since records began in 2010.

Many Europeans are frightened of backwards-looking governmental policies in the light of US president Trump’s weakening of emissions standards. However, despite Trump’s stance, California and other US cities and states and carmaking giants are fortifying electrification and environmental goals in direct opposition. Recently Arnold Schwarzenegger made a splash with a hilarious advertisement against polluting vehicles that was funded by Veloz, a consortium of more than 40 vehicle makers, utility companies, government agencies, and advocacy groups.

In Spain however, even besides hardy citizen support for anti-pollution measures, the new Mayor may also be facing other battles – The EU may have one or two things to say about the Mayor’s intention to make regulations “compatible with citizens’ mobility needs”. The European Commission has already warned that Spain will face sanctions and a possible lawsuit if Spain’s largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, fail to meet air quality standards.

Let the games begin…

… But they didn’t last long:

Update 7 July 2019: In the five days that the ban was lifted, environmental groups noted a “surge” in pollution. Along with the thousands of protestors showing popular support for clean air, the Spanish Worker’s Party and environmental organisations presented a legal appeal against lifting the ban. In ruling on the appeal, the judge said that “the health of Madrid” was more important than “the right to travel by car” and reinstated the restrictions on polluting vehicles in central Madrid.

bbc.co.uk, reuters.com, bbc.com.uk (update)

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