Barcelona implements Europe’s largest car ban to-date in a leap to reach WHO standard air quality

Amidst outcry after two decades of failing to meet EU and WHO air pollution limits, Spain has laid the groundwork to reduce the country's high levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide.

The plan, set to go into effect in Barcelona and surrounding municipalities as of January 2019, will ban private cars registered before 1997 and vans registered before 1994 from the roads, on weekdays. More immediately, those same concerned vehicles will be forbidden to drive during periods of high pollution as of December this year.

It is estimated 106,000 cars and 22,000 vans will be affected, making the proposed law the largest restriction on polluting vehicles in Europe to date.

To facilitate the dramatic transition, the city has pledged to offer three years of free public transportation to those affected.

The goal is for the new measures to help achieve a 10% reduction in emissions over the next 5 years, and a 30% reduction over the next 30 years, the Guardian reports. To oversee progress, the transition will be accompanied by a new network of air quality monitoring stations, reporting real-time pollution levels across the city.

Though significant, this isn’t the first time the city has taken action against smog. Previously city-wide alerts during pollution peaks have encouraged people to take public transport and lower speed limits to 70km/h within the city. Still, more aggressive measures are needed to control the smog, thought to cause around 3,500 premature deaths each year. Here is hope that solidarity in reducing emissions brings a cleaner, healthier Spain.

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