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Tactical Urbanism: An Adaptive Tool for Safe Distancing

Wed, 2020-07-29 20:07
When was the last time you walked through the market without being conscious about other people walking close to you or the last time you took a stroll to a neighborhood park without thinking about the hygiene around? The COVID-19 ...

Learning From Seoul to Control COVID-19: Transparency, Accountability, Solidarity

Mon, 2020-05-18 13:13
In many cities, lockdowns have forced large numbers of people into an impossible dilemma: follow social distancing guidelines or be deprived of their livelihoods and basic services. Unlike most places, South Korea and its capital, Seoul, took a markedly different ...

Tackling Inequality in Cities Is Essential for Fighting COVID-19

Tue, 2020-04-14 22:46
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a disruptive new normal for everyone through shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines. But for the billions of urban poor, these guidelines aren’t just burdensome; they’re essentially impossible. Social distancing is a critically important response ...

Combating the Coronavirus Without Clean Water

Thu, 2020-04-09 01:47
As the coronavirus crisis spreads throughout the world, it is increasingly clear that people with the least access to essential services like water will feel the most dramatic effects. Major health organizations advise washing hands more frequently – for at least ...

Resilience After Recession: 4 Ways to Reboot the U.S. Economy

Wed, 2020-04-01 19:46
The COVID-19 pandemic is already affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and it’s poised to get worse before it gets better. Our primary concern is for the health and welfare of all those affected. The COVID-19 outbreak’s ...

Bogotá Company Deploys 400 Free E-Bikes to Help Health Workers Respond to COVID-19

Mon, 2020-03-30 23:45
COVID-19 is shutting down urban transportation networks around the world. But to “flatten the curve” and save lives, critical frontline health workers still need to get to work. In Bogotá, Colombia, where the city has already experimented with providing emergency ...

COVID-19 Could Affect Cities for Years. Here Are 4 Ways They’re Coping Now.

Fri, 2020-03-20 22:00
The COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare two unavoidable facts about our new reality: we are more interconnected than ever, and cities are at the frontlines of this crisis and will be at the frontlines of any similarly globalized crisis in ...

We’re Underestimating How Many People Lack Sanitation – and Ignoring the Best Solution for Many Cities

Wed, 2019-12-18 19:30
In the urban neighborhood known as Kosovo Village in Nairobi, Kenya, 95% of residents defecate in communal or shared facilities where untreated human waste drains directly into a nearby river. During a storm, fetid and polluted waters flood the riverbanks, ...

Red Alert: 3 Strategies for Reducing Toxic Ozone Pollution

Wed, 2019-10-30 19:55
High up in the stratosphere, naturally occurring ozone reflects solar radiation back into space, protecting people and the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays. But closer to Earth’s surface, rising ozone levels – formed when pollutants from a wide range of sources react ...

Buildings Are a Hidden Source of Indian Cities’ Extreme Heat

Tue, 2019-10-29 20:44
India is ground zero for extreme heat. More than 6,100 people have died from heat events since 2010. Half of the country reeled under severe heat waves this summer, when temperatures reached over 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) in many places. The urban ...

How the SALURBAL Project Is Shining a Spotlight on Urban Health Inequality in Latin America

Wed, 2019-07-17 13:13
The narrative about global inequality and poverty often focuses on rural areas in the global south, with a heavy emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. But the reality is that poverty is becoming more concentrated in cities across the ...

Vida Segura: How São Paulo Plans to Cut Traffic Fatalities by Half in 10 Years

Wed, 2019-06-19 00:09
With a population of 12.2 million – eighth largest in the world – São Paulo faces a daunting task in making its streets safe for all. But in April 2019, the city pledged to do just that, becoming the first ...

It Now Costs You £24 to Enter Central London in an Old Car

Mon, 2019-05-20 13:13
In 2003, London followed the example of Singapore and launched a congestion charge, requiring drivers to pay £11.50 ($15.90) to enter the city center and becoming a global example of how this innovative but sometimes fraught policy can work. Sixteen ...

Million Cool Roofs Challenge Covers the Global ‘Cooling Crunch’ From Another Angle

Thu, 2019-03-21 13:13
Cities in the global south today face a complex challenge: like all cities, they need to reduce carbon emissions, but they also need to expand access to energy. Around the world, 1.1 billion people currently lack access to electric cooling ...

We Need a New Gold Standard for Urban Sanitation: Brian Arbogast

Tue, 2019-02-19 14:13
More than half the global population lacks access to safely managed sanitation services – 4.5 billion people. Every year, more than 340,000 children under the age of five die as a result of this problem. And we’re not solving it ...

Curbing Climate Change and Preventing Deaths from Air Pollution Go Hand-in-Hand

Wed, 2018-11-07 14:13

Curbing short-lived climate pollutants can also reduce air pollution-related deaths. Photo by Nicolò Lazzati/Global Panorama/Flickr

More than 7 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution. That’s like the entire population of Hong Kong dropping dead due to a cause that’s ultimately avoidable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is turning its attention to this issue this week at its first global conference to improve air quality, combat climate change and save lives. It’s time to gather all allies in the fight for clean air. As policy, community and scientific leaders look closely at the public health impacts and the case for clean air, the climate world also offers some important instruments that can drive broader action.

Air pollution Is a Climate AND a Health Challenge

recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made the case for climate action more starkly than ever: The world is way off track for limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), the cap necessary for staving off the worst impacts of climate change. We need to change course rapidly to phase out coal, increase renewables, improve energy efficiency and revolutionize the way we produce food – all while growing sustainably, improving air quality and providing a better life for people.

This attention is a force for health as well as climate goals. A little-discussed fact is that the causes of air pollution and climate change overlap. In some cases, the chemicals are actually the same.

Short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and tropospheric ozone, have a powerful effect on global temperatures, and many are also damaging air pollutants. For example, methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming impact 86 times higher than that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time horizon. It is also the largest precursor to ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which can worsen bronchitis and asthma and damage lung tissue. Tropospheric ozone exposure alone is responsible for an estimated one million premature deaths each year.

In other cases, health-damaging pollutants and climate-changing compounds are emitted at the same time. For example, when coal burns to provide energy, health-damaging fine particles, sometimes laced with toxic mercury, are released along with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Strengthening Climate Commitments Will Improve Air Quality

The instruments for climate action could bring important new momentum to tackling air pollution and improving public health. We should use them.

For example, the international Paris Agreement asks countries to submit strengthened national climate plans, or “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), by 2020. These are powerful instruments to direct finance and bend the global emissions trajectory. This is not only necessary for limiting warming to 1.5°C, it also makes good economic sense: Research from the New Climate Economy finds that bold climate action can result in a global economic gain of $26 trillion by 2030.

Situating short-lived climate pollutants centrally in strengthened NDCs could advance both climate and health goals. A recent study shows that curbing climate change can prevent air pollution-related deaths – benefits that far outweigh the costs of reducing emissions. In fact, the value of health co-benefits can sometimes be more than double the costs of mitigation efforts. For China and India, the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be compensated with the health benefits alone.

A new WRI/Oxfam working paper presents options for how countries can incorporate targets, policies and actions on short-lived climate pollutants and key related sectors into new or updated NDCs. This will allow countries to reap immediate climate and health benefits while ensuring that those least responsible for our changing climate aren’t left to deal with its increasingly severe impacts.

Tackling Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

It’s important to note that curbing climate change and reducing air pollution-related risks aren’t exactly the same thing. Exposure, the intersection between people and pollutants, is the key determinant of health, while ambient air quality, the concentration of pollutants in the air regardless of whether people are breathing them, is the key focus for climate change. But aligning health action with climate action could bring several new and innovative strategies to bear. Tackling short-lived climate pollutants offers an important avenue to address air pollution and curb runaway climate change.

This blog was originally published on WRI’s Insights. 

Katherine Ross is an Associate with WRI’s Climate Program.

Jessica Seddon is the Director of Integrated Urban Strategy at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

As Road Accidents Pile Up, India Debates a New National Safety Law

Tue, 2018-07-24 21:28

India’s roads are among the most dangerous on the planet. A new bill is under discussion to increase penalties for bad behavior, protect good Samaritans and make other changes. Photo by Adam Cohn/Flickr

In July last year, Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for road transport and highways, informed parliament that the country loses over 150,000 lives to road traffic accidents every year. More damningly, the country has only about 2 percent of the world’s motor vehicles but accounts for over 12 percent of its traffic accident deaths, making the Indian road network the most unsafe on the planet.

Unsafe roads are a public health hazard, approaching, in India’s case, an epidemic that not only kills and maims but harms the country’s economic health. According to a study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, road traffic accidents cost India nearly 3 percent of its gross domestic product a year, or, in absolute terms, about $58 billion.

Globally, the countries that have succeeded in reducing road accident deaths have done so by enacting strong laws for road safety. India, on the other hand, has been trying to strengthen its road safety legislation for three decades, to no avail.

In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party government drafted the Road Transport and Safety Bill to replace the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, which currently governs road safety in the country. But the law did not move beyond public consultation and was subsequently replaced by the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in April 2017 and sent to the Rajya Sabha, which referred it to a select committee in August 2017.

When the bill was debated on Monday, the Trinamool Congress, DMK, left-wing parties and Aam Aadmi Party opposed the bill, contending that it diluted the powers of state governments. The Congress Party added that the legislation was aimed at helping corporations.

The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill proposes to increase the penalties for traffic violations. If the violations are committed by a juvenile driver, their guardian or the owner of their vehicle shall be held accountable. It also protects good Samaritans who come forward to help accident victims from civil or criminal liability. Further, the bill envisages a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that will provide compulsory insurance coverage to all road users for certain types of accidents. Another crucial provision holds consultants, contractors and civic agencies accountable for poor design or construction and maintenance of roads. Lastly, the bill empowers the government to recall vehicles or vehicle parts that don’t meet the required standards and fine their manufacturers up to Rs 500 crore (about $73 million).

In the meantime, though, some states have taken steps to improve road safety on their own. Haryana, for example, launched a “Vision Zero” program last year aimed at reducing road traffic fatalities to zero in the long term. It seems to have made a difference already as 10 districts where it was rolled out have reported up to 5 percent declines in road fatalities while the other 12 districts have witnessed an increase in such deaths. This month, Delhi’s state government approved a similar policy; it commits to a 10 percent reduction in accident deaths annually and targets “zero road fatalities” in the long run.

A strong central legislation will only empower such states to work more effectively towards making their roads safer.

Clearly, the need to pass the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill urgently cannot be overstated.

The original version of this article appeared on Scroll.

Amit Bhatt is the Director of Integrated Transport at WRI India Ross Center.

As Road Accidents Pile Up, India Debates a New National Safety Law

Tue, 2018-07-24 21:28

India’s roads are among the most dangerous on the planet. A new bill is under discussion to increase penalties for bad behavior, protect good Samaritans and make other changes. Photo by Adam Cohn/Flickr

In July last year, Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for road transport and highways, informed parliament that the country loses over 150,000 lives to road traffic accidents every year. More damningly, the country has only about 2 percent of the world’s motor vehicles but accounts for over 12 percent of its traffic accident deaths, making the Indian road network the most unsafe on the planet.

Unsafe roads are a public health hazard, approaching, in India’s case, an epidemic that not only kills and maims but harms the country’s economic health. According to a study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, road traffic accidents cost India nearly 3 percent of its gross domestic product a year, or, in absolute terms, about $58 billion.

Globally, the countries that have succeeded in reducing road accident deaths have done so by enacting strong laws for road safety. India, on the other hand, has been trying to strengthen its road safety legislation for three decades, to no avail.

In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party government drafted the Road Transport and Safety Bill to replace the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, which currently governs road safety in the country. But the law did not move beyond public consultation and was subsequently replaced by the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in April 2017 and sent to the Rajya Sabha, which referred it to a select committee in August 2017.

When the bill was debated on Monday, the Trinamool Congress, DMK, left-wing parties and Aam Aadmi Party opposed the bill, contending that it diluted the powers of state governments. The Congress Party added that the legislation was aimed at helping corporations.

The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill proposes to increase the penalties for traffic violations. If the violations are committed by a juvenile driver, their guardian or the owner of their vehicle shall be held accountable. It also protects good Samaritans who come forward to help accident victims from civil or criminal liability. Further, the bill envisages a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that will provide compulsory insurance coverage to all road users for certain types of accidents. Another crucial provision holds consultants, contractors and civic agencies accountable for poor design or construction and maintenance of roads. Lastly, the bill empowers the government to recall vehicles or vehicle parts that don’t meet the required standards and fine their manufacturers up to Rs 500 crore (about $73 million).

In the meantime, though, some states have taken steps to improve road safety on their own. Haryana, for example, launched a “Vision Zero” program last year aimed at reducing road traffic fatalities to zero in the long term. It seems to have made a difference already as 10 districts where it was rolled out have reported up to 5 percent declines in road fatalities while the other 12 districts have witnessed an increase in such deaths. This month, Delhi’s state government approved a similar policy; it commits to a 10 percent reduction in accident deaths annually and targets “zero road fatalities” in the long run.

A strong central legislation will only empower such states to work more effectively towards making their roads safer.

Clearly, the need to pass the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill urgently cannot be overstated.

The original version of this article appeared on Scroll.

Amit Bhatt is the Director of Integrated Transport at WRI India Ross Center.

Why We Need a Summit on Youth Urban Road Safety

Tue, 2018-07-17 20:13

In cities around the world, children are unequally burdened by the threat of vehicular traffic and road crashes. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil

Our cities are rapidly expanding, and with them motorization is increasing at an unchecked pace. Unless the global community takes meaningful strides to address the impact of these trends on the most vulnerable in our society, we will be met by a catastrophic health emergency.

Every three minutes a child or young person dies as a result of road traffic injury. A quarter of a million children and adolescents die on the world’s roads every year. Road traffic injury is the fifth-leading cause of death for children aged 5 to 14 years old.

Beyond the headline figure, for every child who dies, another suffers an irrevocably life-changing disability. For each disability, there are several serious injuries.

In New York this week, governments are meeting for a High-Level Political Forum to assess progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 11: to make cities “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

High-Level Political Forums offer the opportunity to share successes and pave the way to scale up activity to really move towards the 2030 SDG targets. But this is only possible if countries commit to reporting progress made (or not made), so we can understand baseline activities and share in each other’s successes and challenges. That is why the FIA Foundation is calling for a summit for child and adolescent health to put young people at the top of the urban policy agenda.

An Unequal Burden

By 2030, the world is likely to have 43 megacities (those with more than 10 million inhabitants), mostly in developing countries. By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population are likely to be living in cities or other urban centers. In New York this week, countries have the option to submit what are called Voluntary National Reviews to share examples of proactive efforts to achieve the SDGs. It is clear from the reviews submitted that, despite the alarming trends, sustainable transport remains an abstract concept for many countries.

While 95 percent of reporting countries made reference to transport, just 38 percent described specific policy measures or case studies on sustainable transport. A functional and inclusive transport system is crucial to a successful, vibrant city – but how the infrastructure develops, and for whom, are every bit as important as the routes themselves.

Cities across the world have been guilty of designing streets to serve the car-driving minority, and marginalizing the poorest who use public transport, walk or bicycle. From New York to Nairobi, we can see where fast-flowing highways bisect residential areas, presenting a lethal obstacle course for those on foot, while throwing up toxic smog poisoning the lungs of everyone – outside and even inside cars.

The burden of vehicles in cities is carried most heavily by the poorest, but also the youngest.

The joint Overseas Development Institute and WRI Ross Center report, “Securing Safe Roads,” explores varied road safety challenges and their interaction with the political economy. 

In New York City, for example, the child population is evenly spread at around 30 percent of the total. Yet children account for 43 percent of crash victims in lower-income East Harlem compared to 15 percent in the affluent Upper East Side. The World Health Organization says that “many of the children who are victims of this man-made calamity are poor. Attempts to address road safety for children are, therefore, inextricably linked to notions of social justice.”

In African cities, up to 90 percent of children walk to school, but less than 1 in 10 fast roads shared by pedestrians and vehicles (roads with speeds over 40 kilometers per hour) actually have any sidewalks. In urban areas, the dirtiest arterial roads are built away from expensive areas, but the same consideration is often not extended to the city’s poorest.

Urban air pollution is a significant contributor to childhood mortality rates, causing and exacerbating a wide range of serious respiratory and development issues, alongside long-term health conditions. In many cities, vehicles are responsible for a high proportion of air pollution, particularly near busy roads.

Urban traffic pollution particularly affects children because harmful emissions from cars and trucks are delivered directly at street level into their mouths and noses. It has the greatest impact on children under five, killing more than 127,000 each year. Three hundred million children currently live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times.

Walking the Talk

Solutions to this great urban challenge are not, however, elusive. By drawing together transport, environment, public health and planning in a holistic approach, cities can begin to reorient around people, not vehicles. Positive examples of smart, intentional urban design and policy have shown that authorities can transform urban spaces into a walkable, livable, healthy environments and make significant inroads to address injuries, air pollution and climate change.

The Global Designing Cities Initiative, for example, works with 40 cities to demonstrate the impact and benefits of changing the hierarchy of street use and design to focus on pedestrians, cyclists and children. London has become the first city in the world to explicitly adopt a public health-first approach to urban planning that encourages active transport and reduces vehicle journeys to improve health outcomes for all.

A summit on child and adolescent health would ensure that the special vulnerability and importance of young people is not lost in these efforts and becomes a more integral part of the SDG reporting process.

As a global community, we have committed to a safe and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030 – including our most vulnerable. It is an ambitious target we should all be proud to work towards and the solutions are within our reach. But for now it remains talk, and our children need action.

Natalie Draisin is the Director of the North American Office and UN Representative for the FIA Foundation.

Why We Need a Summit on Youth Urban Road Safety

Tue, 2018-07-17 20:13

In cities around the world, children are unequally burdened by the threat of vehicular traffic and road crashes. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil

Our cities are rapidly expanding, and with them motorization is increasing at an unchecked pace. Unless the global community takes meaningful strides to address the impact of these trends on the most vulnerable in our society, we will be met by a catastrophic health emergency.

Every three minutes a child or young person dies as a result of road traffic injury. A quarter of a million children and adolescents die on the world’s roads every year. Road traffic injury is the fifth-leading cause of death for children aged 5 to 14 years old.

Beyond the headline figure, for every child who dies, another suffers an irrevocably life-changing disability. For each disability, there are several serious injuries.

In New York this week, governments are meeting for a High-Level Political Forum to assess progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 11: to make cities “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

High-Level Political Forums offer the opportunity to share successes and pave the way to scale up activity to really move towards the 2030 SDG targets. But this is only possible if countries commit to reporting progress made (or not made), so we can understand baseline activities and share in each other’s successes and challenges. That is why the FIA Foundation is calling for a summit for child and adolescent health to put young people at the top of the urban policy agenda.

An Unequal Burden

By 2030, the world is likely to have 43 megacities (those with more than 10 million inhabitants), mostly in developing countries. By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population are likely to be living in cities or other urban centers. In New York this week, countries have the option to submit what are called Voluntary National Reviews to share examples of proactive efforts to achieve the SDGs. It is clear from the reviews submitted that, despite the alarming trends, sustainable transport remains an abstract concept for many countries.

While 95 percent of reporting countries made reference to transport, just 38 percent described specific policy measures or case studies on sustainable transport. A functional and inclusive transport system is crucial to a successful, vibrant city – but how the infrastructure develops, and for whom, are every bit as important as the routes themselves.

Cities across the world have been guilty of designing streets to serve the car-driving minority, and marginalizing the poorest who use public transport, walk or bicycle. From New York to Nairobi, we can see where fast-flowing highways bisect residential areas, presenting a lethal obstacle course for those on foot, while throwing up toxic smog poisoning the lungs of everyone – outside and even inside cars.

The burden of vehicles in cities is carried most heavily by the poorest, but also the youngest.

The joint Overseas Development Institute and WRI Ross Center report, “Securing Safe Roads,” explores varied road safety challenges and their interaction with the political economy. 

In New York City, for example, the child population is evenly spread at around 30 percent of the total. Yet children account for 43 percent of crash victims in lower-income East Harlem compared to 15 percent in the affluent Upper East Side. The World Health Organization says that “many of the children who are victims of this man-made calamity are poor. Attempts to address road safety for children are, therefore, inextricably linked to notions of social justice.”

In African cities, up to 90 percent of children walk to school, but less than 1 in 10 fast roads shared by pedestrians and vehicles (roads with speeds over 40 kilometers per hour) actually have any sidewalks. In urban areas, the dirtiest arterial roads are built away from expensive areas, but the same consideration is often not extended to the city’s poorest.

Urban air pollution is a significant contributor to childhood mortality rates, causing and exacerbating a wide range of serious respiratory and development issues, alongside long-term health conditions. In many cities, vehicles are responsible for a high proportion of air pollution, particularly near busy roads.

Urban traffic pollution particularly affects children because harmful emissions from cars and trucks are delivered directly at street level into their mouths and noses. It has the greatest impact on children under five, killing more than 127,000 each year. Three hundred million children currently live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times.

Walking the Talk

Solutions to this great urban challenge are not, however, elusive. By drawing together transport, environment, public health and planning in a holistic approach, cities can begin to reorient around people, not vehicles. Positive examples of smart, intentional urban design and policy have shown that authorities can transform urban spaces into a walkable, livable, healthy environments and make significant inroads to address injuries, air pollution and climate change.

The Global Designing Cities Initiative, for example, works with 40 cities to demonstrate the impact and benefits of changing the hierarchy of street use and design to focus on pedestrians, cyclists and children. London has become the first city in the world to explicitly adopt a public health-first approach to urban planning that encourages active transport and reduces vehicle journeys to improve health outcomes for all.

A summit on child and adolescent health would ensure that the special vulnerability and importance of young people is not lost in these efforts and becomes a more integral part of the SDG reporting process.

As a global community, we have committed to a safe and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030 – including our most vulnerable. It is an ambitious target we should all be proud to work towards and the solutions are within our reach. But for now it remains talk, and our children need action.

Natalie Draisin is the Director of the North American Office and UN Representative for the FIA Foundation.

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