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Diesel Debate: "Cars must be removed from the street"

Moderated by Cristina Ribas (ACCC) and David Rojas (CREAL) and with interventions of Jordi Sunyer (CREAL), Xavier Querol (CSIC) and Francisco González Balmas (STA)

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Diesel Debate:

Barcelona, 28 October 2015.- Last Monday was held at the Room Marie Curie from the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), a debate on the environmental consequences on public health and the diesel fraud, organized by the CREAL, an allied ISGlobal center. The debate was moderated by Cristina Ribas, president of the Catalan Association of Scientific Communication (ACCC), and David Rojas, researcher at CREAL.

"The problem is not Volkswagen, is the independent brand diesel vehicle itself," said Dr. Jordi Sunyer at the start of his presentation. "The problem of diesel vehicles worsened after Kyoto, where it has decided to promote this type of vehicle in Europe in order to reduce CO2 emissions. But vehicles with this engine emit more NO2 (up to four times more) and PM (up to 20 times) and also emit CO2". The CREAL researcher and deputy scientific director focused on NO2 pollution and its effects on health, causing cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, among others, and mortality. "There is a decline in lung function of asthmatics if walking in contaminated areas, as central city streets. Los Angeles has been very successful when it comes to meeting the air quality standards despite the high use of transport roads and there has been an improvement in the respiratory health. The NO2 is less toxic than particles (PM) effects, but have considerable impacts on health," Sunyer said. And he asked, "should not allow the entry of cars in the city? In the Netherlands is allowed only drive at those using active transport or/and public transport within the city. Europeans are emitting greenhouse gases and a considerable amountof greenhouse gases. Are there any solutions? A public transport and active transport, limits in mobility and include experts in mobility and urban planning, among others, in this debate."

Xavier Querol, researcher and Professor at CSIC, explained that "in our Airuse project there is a section on how technologies reduce NO2 from traffic. In the Netherlands there is more gasoline consumption of diesel for purely environmental reasons. A tourism diesel emits 5 times more NO2 than a truck. For this reason, vehicles must be removed from the street. We have 600,000 vehicles in the city of Barcelona, ??with a density higher than London. How can we resolve the issue of vehicle emissions?"asked Querol. "First you have to identify the cars and then we'll see whether or not are removed."

"Today is hard to see a vehicle that emits black smoke from the exhaust pipe," said Francisco González Balmas, President of the Society of Automotive Technicians (STA). "Why the European Commission did not put a limit on emissions of NO2, instead of NOx? The engine pollutes more when is working with acceleration and braking. The European Commission has to change the legislation and the manufacturers will have to agree the European cycle under which works the car. Countries and regions don’t have the power to prevent the movement of cars, but the cities. The city council can make you pay for driving in the city, as long as we prevent contamination, or it can deny the circulation of the cars within the city, as the case of Paris. The automotive industry have developed electric or gas cars, but politicians must be involved in its promotion."

Debate with the audience

The Platform for Air Quality noted that the model of private vehicles is already an obsolete model. The Platform is launching a state-wide campaign called "Bad Smoke", related with Volkswagen gate and other car brands.

A representative of the Natural Gas Foundation said that it has been talking a lot about climate change and not about local pollution. He explained that this could be "because it affects local governments and other institutions. We are scary to talk about the Volkswagen gate for our dependence on the automotive industry. But it is possible to manufacture and be consistent with environmental regulations. We must dare to do as other cities: If a vehicle does not meet the terms should not circulate in the city."

Carlos Gonzalez, specialist in public health and representative of Barcelona en Comú, explained that "we have seen that voluntarism in environmental regulations does not work. If we get something, we must do as the law against smoking".

"We must make a courageous policy, removing cars dramatically from the streets, and not to limit the regulation to special events. We know that the issue of allowing circulating cars with registration odd or even, as it was implemented in Mexico, does not work and it has no effect," Sunyer said.

"We have to put any potential conditions to make cars less polluted" chimed a member of CCOO present in the debate. Moreover, Josep Samitier, from the Climate Change Office of the Catalan government, said that "one should not confront the problem of climate change and air pollution, as they have in common. And an important point to consider would be what kind of mobility we have."


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