Smog shrouds the Mexico City skyline in March, 2016. Henry Romero/Reuters

They hope to reduce the roughly 3 million yearly deaths tied to outdoor air pollution.

Living with bouts of choking, stewlike smog is a reality in Mexico City—which declared an environmental emergency this spring for air contamination—and Paris, now experimenting with a weekday driving ban for pre-1997 cars. But a breath of fresh air might be coming as these places, along with Madrid and Athens, have agreed to eliminate soot-spewing diesel vehicles from their roads by 2025.

Mayors from the four cities made the ambitious commitment Thursday at the C40 climate conference in Mexico City. Their hope is to cut down on outdoor air pollution, which the WHO estimates caused 3 million premature deaths in 2012, mostly in cities. Aside from banning diesel, the cities also vowed to create incentives for less-polluting vehicles and get more people using their pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

The WHO estimates 92 percent of the world’s population lives with unsafe levels of air pollution. Shown above is a model of annual mean outdoors pollution, with yellow/orange/red areas being progressively more damaging to health. (WHO)

The exact methods the cities will use to target diesel vehicles remain unclear. There will likely be a regulatory approach, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has called on “car and bus manufacturers to join us” in fighting pollution. Here’s more from a C40 press release sent out last night:

“It is no secret that in Mexico City, we grapple with the twin problems of air pollution and traffic,” said Mayor of Mexico City Miguel Ángel Mancera. “By expanding alternative transportation options like our Bus Rapid Transport and subway systems, while also investing in cycling infrastructure, we are working to ease congestion in our roadways and our lungs.”...

“Our goal is to ultimately remove all cars from the center of Athens in the years to come,” said Mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis. “I support the bold ambition of the Air Quality Declaration and call on our partners in the national government to implement their commitments based on the international climate action agreements and to join our common effort to clean the air that we breathe.”

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