Last year, the world saw cities like Paris announce its move to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and the ascension of Syria to the Paris Agreement at the COP23 Summit in Bonn. Kicking off the New Year’s move towards greener cities is none other than Madrid, where Mayor Manuela Carmena is taking measures to make the Spanish capital greener.

In early 2017, Mayor Manuela Carmena announced (link in Spanish) a 30-point scheme tackling air quality in the Spanish capital. What she is calling “Plan A because there is no Plan B,” aims to improve the city’s air quality by reducing carbon emissions and revamping infrastructure to encourage pedestrians to walk and bike rather than drive around the city. Coupled with larger sidewalks and more bike lanes, the city is looking to roll out (link in Spanish) 70 electric-run buses next month, with hopes of making the city’s air cleaner for Madrileños.

Following last year’s closure, Gran Vía Avenue, also known as Madrid’s Broadway Street, Carmena renewed the avenue’s closure last week to reduce vehicle-emitted pollution by banning non-local cars from driving through. Although the closure is only temporary, the move is in line with the mayor’s promise to limit access of bikes, buses, and taxis to the avenue by 2019, which marks the end of Carmena’s term as mayor.

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Access to Madrid’s renowned Gran Vía will be restricted to local residents, individuals with limited mobility, and taxis. (CC: Felipe-Gabaldón

By mid-2018, the city will unveil its Zero Emissions Zone in the capital’s Old City, granting access to local residents, those with limited mobility, and zero-emissions vehicles exclusively. By 2020, Madrid hopes to make ownership and renting parking spaces available only to zero-emissions vehicles, unlike the current policy, which allows drivers of any car to own or rent parking spaces.

Mayor Carmena hopes that the increase in bike lanes will yield an increase in Madrileños’ bike ridership. To encourage cycling, the city has doubled the number of bikeshare bicycles and allowed bike ridership beyond the M30 Beltway, the city’s innermost motorway. Although the motorway is one of the city’s most efficient, it still remains one of Madrid’s biggest sources of air pollution, which is why the municipality has lowered the speed limit during peak times on the Beltway to 70 kilometers per hour (~43 miles per hour). By the end of 2018, the Beltway’s reduced speed limit will become permanent.

The mayor’s office is trying to align its facilities with its new policies as well, by converting municipal buildings to rely on renewable energy. Towards the end of 2018, all buildings will be powered by renewable energy, the largest of which will be equipped with solar panels. Coupled with these efforts, the mayor’s office is garnering large support from the public, which is further enabling her work to propel Madrid towards a greener future.

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