California a role model for tackling pollution

California has led the world and irritated the car industry for more than 40 years in its fight against the atmospheric pollution that fouls its cities and is blamed for killing trees hundreds of miles away. As long ago as 1943, Los Angeles scientists recorded the first episode of smog formation in the city’s basin and identified vehicle emission as the cause, leading to its first air pollution law in 1947. Last year, the state incensed manufacturers by imposing a 30 per cent reduction in tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide – from all new cars sold in the state. So when in 10 days’ time a group of 60 city mayors from around the globe arrive in San Francisco for a five-day meeting to mark the UN’s World Environment Day by discussing measures they can take to combat climate change, they will find plenty of inspiration from local lawmakers. The mayors will include Ken Livingstone of London, who instituted a congestion charge in order to cut traffic; Carlos Alberto Richa from Curitiba, Brazil, whose city has been called the cleanest in the world; and Han Zheng from Shanghai, who is confronting pollution in one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas. They will be joined by some of their US counterparts who have recently raised their voices to chide their own federal government over climate change. Earlier this month, New York City’s Michael Bloomberg joined the growing list of US mayors to resolve to cut their city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7 per cent compared with 1990 levels by 2012 – the commitment the US would have made had the federal government ratified the Kyoto protocol on climate change. The meeting will agree a set of 21 measures, known as the Urban Environmental Accords, which will lay out actions every city can take to tackle environmental problems, from climate change to water pollution. Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, said: “The Accords represent an innovative response to the fact that we now live on an urban planet. We need to develop real solutions to urban environmental challenges.”
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