Anne Hidalgo, recently elected as the city’s first female mayor, on Wednesday revealed details of a controversial plan to reduce traffic in the French capital.
“We are determined to act quickly,” she said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper, “because the fight against pollution by fine particles – due in particular to the diesel automobile fleet – is a major public health hazard.”
Her statements were part of the run-up to 9 February, when she will present a pollution prevention plan to the city council. It also marks an effort to green the city in advance of major global climate talks, which Paris will host in December.
Hidalgo’s plan, which she hopes to start implementing on 1 July, has met fierce criticism.
The right-wing populist National Front blasted what its national treasurer referred to as a “fight against Parisians,” saying the plan would adversely impact workers who rely on cars.
Particularly under scrutiny are the longer-term plans, which include phasing out high-polluting vehicles with a programme to subsidise efficient cars.
Diesel cars make up the majority of vehicles sold in Europe, and they are popular in France after being touted as fuel-efficient. But authorities started moving away from diesel engines after the World Health Organization classified their exhaust fumes as a carcinogen in 2012.
Hidalgo says she wants to eliminate diesel altogether by 2020. She claims her position is in line with broader attitudes, citing that 60 percent of Parisians had a personal vehicle in 2001 compared to 40 per cent in 2014.
With plans to continue supporting Paris’ bikeshare programme, and to designate more areas of the city as pedestrian-only, Paris could join a movement of metropoles around the world that are trying to encourage walking and biking.
That, in Hidalgo’s view, is a top priority.
“We’re already past controversy,” she said. “The question is no longer why we need to act, but how and at what pace.”