Paris has introduced the odd-even car rule, and made public transportation in the city and suburbs free in response to the thick “lid of pollution” and smog that is covering the city, the Guardian reported. The city’s electric cars, bike sharing services, metro and buses were made free on Tuesday (December 6), and only cars with even-numbered registration plates were allowed on the roads, with a €22 fine for anyone who broke the rule. Odd numbered cars were allowed on Wednesday, with cars with even-numbered plates back on Thursday.
The car rule has only been introduced four times in the last two decades and never for two consecutive days or longer, according to the Guardian. The Washington Post added that the rule has previously been introduced to deal with higher pollution levels in 2015, 2014 and 1997.
Experts told the Guardian that this is the “longest most intense spike” in the city’s pollution levels in at least ten years.
The smog is the result of weather conditions combining with emission from power plants, traffic (particularly cars that run on diesel), people turning on their heating (gas burners, but especially wood fires). According to the Guardian and Washington Post, Paris is currently experiencing “anti-cyclonic weather conditions” characterised by “low winds and high pressure” which keep emissions closer to ground level, resulting in the thick smog.
Smog tends to emerge as an issue around this time every year because of Paris’ weather patterns and the BBC reported that similar measures were implemented around this time last year as well. However, this week’s pollution levels have hit a record high. The BBC even reported that for a brief period on Wednesday last week, Paris had the world’s most polluted air.
There is unlikely to be any improvement in the city’s pollution levels until the weather conditions improve and so cutting emissions is the only way to tackle the smog.
“As long as the meteorological situation remains the same and emissions remain the same, we will not see the end of the pollution spike,” the Paris prefect, Michel Cadot told the Guardian.
The city is said to have mobilised 750 police officers to ensure that people abide by the restrictions put in place. Despite this, the Local reported that Paris police issued 1,700 fines on Tuesday itself and that the city is spending 4.3 million each day to keep public transport free for its residents.
Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted a picture of the smog-blanketed city, taken from an aeroplane, with just the hazy top of the Eiffel Tower visible.
According to the Washington Post, the tweet read: “Paris today. The proof that we need to reduce the presence of cars in the city”.
Quoted in the same report, Hidalgo said, “Every year, 2,500 people die in Paris because of air pollution,” she said. “We cannot remain inactive in this situation.”
Sébastien Vray, president of the group Respire (Breathe), told the Guardian that air pollution causes 48,000 premature deaths in France each year. He termed it the “third largest” cause of death in the country.