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Austin signs on to global pledge to reduce air pollution

At the C40 Summit in Copenhagen, 34 city leaders pledge to push aggressive measures to curb dirty air

Overhead view of highways surrounded by medium-height buildings with a group of tall buildings in the background.
Austin pledges to address air pollution

Austin is one of 34 cities worldwide pledging to take new action to fight air pollution, today signing a declaration to put aggressive clean air policies into practice by 2025. Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration at the C40 World Mayor’s Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, committing the city to “setting ambitious pollution reduction targets within two years that meet or exceed national commitments, putting them on a path towards meeting World Health Organization guidelines,” according to a C40 press release.

The declaration, in which cities pledge to “continually reduce their local emissions, and advocate for reductions in regional emissions, resulting in continuous declines in air pollution levels that move towards the WHO guidelines,” recognizes the importance of for local action in addressing the global environmental crisis.

“Cities have the greatest effect on progress toward clean air and climate change goals,” said Adler. “That’s what makes this pledge by mayors from around the world both exciting and urgent. Nothing less than the coordinated effort of cities is required to reduce pollution and protect the air we share.”

Adler made a similar commitment in 2017, when 61 members of a U.S. Climate Mayors coalition agreed to adopt the international 2015 Paris climate agreement on a local scale after the United States withdrew from the agreement. More recently, Austin joined a list of cities declaring a climate emergency, shortly before the city moved into what would be its hottest September on record.

The C40 members also announced the group’s support of a “global Green New Deal” earlier this week.

While signing the declaration means that “these cities in effect promise to make promises,” according to Curbed’s Patrick Sisson, “progress by these cities can make an outsize impact on the health of millions and speed up the global push toward carbon-free transit and curtailing emissions. Drastic action is required to make a dent; last year, according to the International Energy Agency, global energy-related carbon emissions hit a new record high.”

In addition, he writes, “C40 research found that if all 94 member cities cleaned their transport, buildings, and industry, it would cut greenhouse gases by 87 percent and avoid nearly 220,000 premature deaths every year.”

With transportation playing a major role in the creation of carbon emissions, Austin will have to act quickly to achieve pretty much any climate goals it sets. A recent New York Times article reported that total carbon emissions in the city have increased 178 per cent, or 12 per cent per person, since 1990—more than those in the Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, or San Antonio metro areas. Austin is also the 14th most congested city in the country, according to a Texas A&M Transportation Institute study reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

Austin joined Amman, Bengaluru, Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Delhi, Dubai, Durban (eThekwini), Guadalajara, Heidelberg, Houston, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Lima, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Medellin, Mexico City, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Portland, Quezon City, Quito, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tokyo, Warsaw, and Washington, D.C., in the declaration.