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July 27, 2017

France and Britain’s Gas and Diesel Automobile Ban: A Good Long Term Goal That Requires Near-Term, Broader Measures To Deliver Real Health Gains

(New York, USA) – Vital Strategies applauds the decisions of France and the United Kingdom (UK) to prohibit the sales of gasoline and diesel powered automobiles by 2040. In the context of comprehensive policy action to reduce air pollution, the move will help to improve the health of citizens who would otherwise continue to be exposed to harmful vehicle emissions.

“The UK and France have shown great foresight and support for the Paris Climate Agreement, putting the health of the public first as they devise strategies to improve air quality while reducing carbon emissions. We hope these countries and others will be inspired to take broader and more immediate steps to begin to reverse the harm to health and the environment from auto-centric transportation policies,” said Dan Kass, Senior Vice President of Environmental Health at Vital Strategies.

As countries work to make the commitments of the Paris Agreement a reality, Vital Strategies urges governments to learn from the worsening diesel vehicle pollution crisis gripping many European cities and spreading around the globe and involve public health agencies and experts in the formation of city, national and international climate action plans.

Kass continued: “To achieve prompt, sustained emission reductions, ambitious long-term goals need to be codified to ensure compliance. This has to include meaningful, near-term actions, and robust planning and investment in necessary infrastructure. Public health experts can help administrations to identify and prioritize those interventions that have the biggest local co-benefits, improving people’s health in the near-term, while also achieving longer-term carbon emission reductions. Policies supporting a shift to diesel cars as a climate change mitigation measure did not weigh the public health harm or the public health benefits of broader, alternative visions for sustainable urban transportation.”

Kass warned that policymakers need to look beyond tailpipe emissions to reduce harm from vehicles: “France and the UK are introducing this ban as part of their efforts to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement. Any country that commits to a major shift to electric vehicles must hasten efforts to decarbonize their energy systems to avoid merely displacing emissions from vehicles to power plants, which would limit benefits for public health and the planet.

Replacing coal with cleaner and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, tidal power, and renewable fuels, as well as natural gas, will be critical for managing energy needs from car conversion. Additionally, investing more broadly in public transportation and sustainable urban planning reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions while delivering significant health co-benefits: saving lives by reducing harmful pollutants, increasing physical activity, reducing stress-inducing noise, and reducing injuries from motor vehicle crashes. Furthermore, reducing urban transportation energy use can help to lower the cost of expanding renewable energy and redirect resources to more beneficial uses, such as expanding modern household energy access.

“Climate mitigation requires bold vision, strong leadership and accountability for follow-through. Bully for the UK, and merci to the French for taking a step in the right direction, demonstrating that change is possible and that these policies can enjoy widespread public support,” Kass concluded.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global public health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org

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