In the spring of 2020, 35 cities around the world committed to designating a large area within each city as a Zero Emission Area (ZEA) by the end of this decade. The cities are all members of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership group, which is a consortium of megacities around the world that are all dedicated to working together to drive urban action to tackle climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the health, wellbeing, and economic opportunities of urban citizens.
The new commitment to ZEAs is a major goal of the C40 Green and Healthy Streets Declaration, and leading cities are already beginning to implement plans, according to a report by C40 and the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI).
“Designating a significant area of the city as ‘zero emission’ by 2030 will require holistic and multi-faceted thinking and a timetable of strategic actions designed to shift the whole urban system onto a zero emission trajectory,” reads the report.
That’s a tall order, but a necessary one as cities around the world are engines for both economic growth and, unfortunately, greenhouse gas emissions.
As the cities involved, from Seoul to Oslo, Amsterdam to Auckland, progress with their ZEA plans, four distinct implementation progressions are beginning to emerge:
1) Street-based pilots
Street-based pilots involve restricting vehicle access to a few streets in 2020 and expanding to more streets towards 2030. The goal is to prioritize the improvement of walking and cycling infrastructure and experiment with new methods of freight access. In the process, flagstrip streets will be created, which will increase foot traffic and thus engagement with stakeholders, businesses, and citizens generally.
Check out how Oxford is planning to create its “Red Zone” by restricting access to streets at the heart of the city’s center: Oxford’s zero emission zone
2) District-scale design
As its name suggests, district-scale design involves transforming a whole district at scale. Requisite for success is a comprehensive timetable detailing significant interventions that would shift public transport, walking, and cycling to reduce vehicles in that area. Top priorities for cities implementing this approach would be to increase the connectivity of public transport while improving walking and cycling infrastructure.
See how Auckland used the district-scale design approach to implement the Access for Everyone concept: Access for Everyone
3) Vehicle regulation cordons
Cities around the globe are introducing concentric cordons of urban vehicle restrictions with strict regulations at the centers. Petrol and diesel cars are being phased out with disincentives and cleaner electric vehicles are being phased in with incentives. By following this approach, cities hope to establish a clearly cordoned area of the city that only allows zero emissions vehicles and other methods of non-motorized transport by 2030.
Read about how Barcelona is transforming its mobility by implementing vehicle regulation cordons. Low emissions zone | Info Barcelona | Barcelona City Council
4) Timetable to a ZEA in 2030
Ever heard of SMART goals? It stands for Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-bound, and it’s a method by which individuals, or in this case cities, break up larger goals into smaller ones and strategically work to achieve them. By publishing a pathway and a timeline of interventions for an area to become zero emissions by 2030, cities are holding themselves and their actions accountable and ensuring success for a long-term vision with a clear deadline.
Interested in what this might look like? See how Amsterdam’s timeline to a ZEA in 2030 is laid out in its Clean Air Action Plan.
Benefits of Zero Emission Areas
The C40 and TUMI report outlines a range of benefits that come out of creating ZEAs in cities that encourage walking, cycling, and public transport over fossil fuel vehicles. “The shift towards zero emission mobility will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” reads the report, “it will result in less congestion, quieter cities, cleaner air, healthier spaces, and safer roads.”