A working group chaired by Stéphane Illouz, partner
in Reed Smith's real estate and environment department in
Paris, in partnership with French think tank La Fabrique
Ecologique, has published a report on the subject of air pollution
in urban areas, detailing a number of innovative measures to combat
this increasingly alarming issue.
In 2014, the French population was regularly exposed to
particularly high levels of air pollution. The report, drawing upon
many case studies, has identified the composition and sources of
this pollution, as well as its impact on our health and economic
development. This pollution would appear to be the direct cause of
at least 16,500 deaths every year in France alone, and the OECD has
estimated its economic impact to be €48 billion, or 2.3% of
the country's GDP.
Although national and European regulations are abundant, the
practical realities of these, and limited state intervention, means
they are insufficient to tackle the problem. The lack of an
enforceable legislative framework has meant that initiatives taken
in some cities (such as tramways and regulated urban transport
plans) have not been replicated throughout the country.
The working group examined at length different measures taken in
various countries around the world (including car-pooling, traffic
restrictions and congestion charges) in order to identify which
would be most suitable for implementation in France. These
innovative solutions are centred on traffic pollution (a symbol of
modern society) and have three broad aims:
Developing more integrated ways to inform people about
air pollution: This can be achieved by making use of every
media platform and information source available, such as weather
forecasts, car GPS systems and even prevention courses to be taught
in companies or schools. Furthermore, this information should be
visible on any public message boards (such as bus stops, bike
racks, car parks). This readily available information is key to
raising awareness of the issue and ultimately changing
Reducing road traffic pollution: Rather than
reducing pollution peaks by organising alternate traffic
circulation measures, it would be advisable to restrict road usage
to vehicles that have been identified as less polluting by French
legislation. Furthermore, these measures must be accompanied by
effective transport initiatives led by companies (such as
car-pooling, bike-to-work schemes and the use of public transport)
– initiatives that should become compulsory with the
enactment of new legislation.
Protecting vulnerable populations: This
measure would concern the construction of any new public building
hosting any identified vulnerable groups (such as hospitals or
schools). Such a building would need to be situated at least 200
metres away from any source of air pollution. More generally, the
report recommends a greater consideration for air quality and
health when new public buildings are built.
These measures follow on from initiatives begun in July 2014,
with hearings involving public and private specialists (such as
RATP, local governments, TDF, JC Decaux, and Aerophile), as well as
a public presentation on 30 June 2015, hosted by Senator Leila
Aïchi and Professor Thomas Similowski, respirologist and
president of the scientific commission of French foundation la
Fondation du Souffle.
The aforementioned initiatives are intended to be put in place
as soon as possible, given the increasing impact that air pollution
has on our lives. Reed Smith will coordinate and monitor their
Reed Smith is a leading player in the field of energy and
environmental law, and is committed to developing a more
sustainable model for our cities. We are confident that these
propositions and more effective urban planning, coupled with new
pioneering standards, will not only have positive consequences on
our health, but also be a new basis for economic development and
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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