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Avoiding ‘mal-mitigation’: Integrating city-level climate action plans with clean air action plans – The experiences of Madrid and Mexico City

Richard Siluzas

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Many activities that burn fossil fuels co-emit greenhouse gases and air pollutants. This argues for planning to reduce emissions in an integrated manner by identifying measures that yield benefits in both areas. It may also bolster political support for climate action& as some city dwellers may more readily embrace a plan that promises local benefits (in terms of improved air quality) over measures to reduce global warming. Despite the appeal of integrated planning& many cities take a siloed approach to improving air quality and reducing GHG emissions leading to sub-optimal outcomes. This session will take a deep dive into two cities that have made innovative efforts to integrate climate and clean air action planning: Madrid and Mexico City. Panelists will explore how both top-down drivers (e.g.& national and supra-national regulations) and bottom-up factors (e.g.& grassroots pressure) affect city-level climate and clean air action planning. At the same time& they will show how technical barriers stymie a fully integrated consideration of these two planning goals. Complementing this comparative research& representatives from both Mexico City and Madrid will provide first-hand accounts of local policymaking processes& along with updates about the impacts of COVID-19 on implementation efforts in those two cities. To elaborate on “relevant topics” - Air quality has tremendous impacts on the health and wellbeing of city dwellers. New research estimates that more than eight million people die prematurely each year from breathing polluted air that contains particles from fossil fuels (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/c-change/news/fossil-fuel-air-pollution-responsible-for-1-in-5-deaths-worldwide/). This finding underscores an important health “co-benefit” of reducing GHG emissions. At the same time& addressing both climate and clean air objectives through integrated planning moves cities closer to sustainable consumption and production patterns than would addressing either objective in isolation. City-level plans are a core tool in urban planning and design& while urban form plays an important role in long-term climate and air quality outcomes. In terms of city-level models and data& the session will explore innovative approaches to modeling the mitigation and the clean air benefits of alternative actions. Also issues of scale and governance emerge when one considers the challenges of taking action at the metropolitan scale& e.g.& mass transport systems.