Heatwave-linked pollution sees Spanish city urge less car use

MADRID: A few weeks after saying it will curb its low emission zone (LEZ), the new right-wing coalition government in the Spanish city of Valladolid is calling on people to stop using private cars due to high levels of ozone contamination.

Hot air from a heatwave affecting southern Europe has caused levels of ozone in the atmosphere to exceed the trigger for calls for less car use, for a third consecutive day on Tuesday (Jul 18), the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“Combustion vehicles emit pollutants which contribute significantly to the formation of ozone in the atmosphere…It is important that the use of combustion vehicles for private transport is reduced as much as possible so as not to trigger more restrictive measures,” it added.

Spain, like many parts of the world, is enduring a heatwave that has seen some towns and regions break maximum temperature records in recent days.

Valladolid’s new coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (PP) and far-right Vox, which took power following local elections in May, has said it would reduce the city’s LEZ, arguing that Valladolid has low pollution levels.

Valladolid also plans to reroute bike and bus lanes to improve congested traffic, denying claims by cycling groups that it is a covert way to shorten them.

With polls indicating a PP/Vox coalition government as the most likely outcome of next Sunday’s national election, there are fears such reversals in several cities where they rule may signal what could be a broader shift in Spain’s climate change policy.

Asked by Reuters about whether it was contradictory to be reducing its LEZ while at the same time asking residents to curb the use of cars, the mayor’s office replied that “it is normal for the maximum [ozone] levels… to increase during episodes of high temperatures”.

It called on vulnerable groups such as people with asthma or other respiratory conditions to make sure they took their medication and to consider reducing open-air activity.


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