Referendum Passes to Discourage Polluting Vehicles Before 2024 Olympics
Paris took a stand against highly polluting vehicles on Sunday when residents voted in favor of a proposal to triple parking fees for sports utility vehicles weighing over 1.8 tons. The move comes as the city prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and seeks to meet aggressive emissions reductions targets.
The referendum was organized by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has implemented numerous policies to reduce air pollution and vehicle emissions since taking office in 2014. The vote saw roughly 60% of participating Parisians support hiking hourly parking rates from €3 to €9 ($12) for SUVs. Smaller cars and electric vehicles will not see any changes to parking costs.
Paris Continues Push Against Emissions Ahead of 2024 Olympics
The parking surcharge for SUVs is the latest effort to curb emissions and promote greener transportation in Paris. Hidalgo has overseen the creation of hundreds of miles of bike lanes, the banning of old diesel vehicles from the city, and making public transit free for children under 11 years old.
The anti-SUV parking measure is projected to impact around 40,000 vehicle owners in Paris out of nearly 1.5 million total private cars registered in the city. Officials believe the high parking costs will discourage residents from buying or driving large SUVs that emit more greenhouse gases and worsen air quality.
|Key Sustainability Policies in Paris
|Hidalgo elected Mayor of Paris
|Partially pedestrianized 3.3km of right bank of River Seine
|Created 97 miles of new bike lanes
|Banned all diesel cars made before 2001
|Lowered speed limit to 18 mph over half the city
|Tripling parking fees for SUVs
Reducing emissions is especially important with Paris set to host the Summer Olympics in 2024. The city has a target of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% of 1990 levels and becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Transportation currently accounts for 61% of Paris’ emissions – hence the focus on disincentivizing polluting vehicles.
The parking surcharge policy still needs full approval from the Paris Council, though that is considered a formality following the referendum result. It would then likely take effect in early 2025, just over a year before the Olympics kick off in July 2026.
Mixed Reaction to SUV Parking Fee Rise
Response from Parisians and advocacy groups on the referendum has been mixed. Supporters praise the move to reduce oversized vehicle emissions. But critics argue it is overly punitive to SUV drivers and more must be done to improve public transportation as an alternative.
“We need systemic solutions that provide realistic alternatives to driving,” said Pierre Chasseray, head of the 40 Million Drivers association that opposed the vote. “Making thousands of people feel guilty about their choice of car is not a lasting policy.”
Groups like France Nature Environment and Greenpeace celebrated the referendum result as a step towards cleaner air in Paris. City officials emphasized the parking surcharge was only for the largest and most polluting SUVs, not standard household cars.
“The idea is not to punish drivers, but to encourage them to switch to cleaner vehicles,” said David Belliard, Paris’ deputy mayor in charge of transportation. “We need to progressively eliminate high-emission vehicles from our roads.”
There are also calls for Hidalgo to improve public transit to support greener transportation goals. Paris ranked poorly on access to metro and bus services in a recent global city survey. Critics say reliable and affordable public transport must become a priority.
What Happens Next?
Now that the referendum has passed, the Paris Council still needs to approve amending parking fees before the SUV surcharge comes into effect. But Mayor Hidalgo’s administration holds a majority of council seats, making the policy change a near certainty.
Environmental groups will view the parking surcharge as a template and push other European cities to follow Paris’ lead. Just last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would consider a similar fee on SUVs in the British capital. Cities across the continent have set ambitious emissions reduction targets in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
For Parisians, the coming years promise further policies and investments to discourage personal car ownership and usage. Improving public transportation infrastructure remains an obvious priority before Paris hosts the 2024 Olympics. Mayor Hidalgo will also likely continue exploring new ways to meet the city’s sustainability goals, with emission-heavy SUVs squarely in her sights.
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