29 March 2011
EU to ban cars from cities by 2050
Brian Micklethwait

So says Bruno Waterfield:

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a “single European transport area” aimed at enforcing “a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers” by 2050.

The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.

Top of the EU’s list to cut climate change emissions is a target of “zero” for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU’s future cities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto “alternative” means of transport.

“That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres,” he said. “Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour.”

A bunch of people who think that’s mad respond by saying that that’s mad.  Maybe it is, but how will the anti-maddists stop it?  That argument hasn’t worked all the times it’s been tried before.

The trouble with the “that’s mad” argument is that it doesn’t lay a finger on the “yes but wouldn’t it be nice?” argument.  Opponents of the EU look like grumpy believers in surrendering to “reality”.  The EU, meanwhile, comes across as boldly changing mere “reality” to something nicer.  So, the real argument is: would this actually be nicer?

My argument against might go something like this: it sounds nice, but it would drain all the life out of cities and turn them into museums, rather as the centre of Paris already has been turned into a museum, in that case by not allowing any new buildings other than Presidential follies like the glass pyramid thingy or the Pompidou Centre.  London, in contrast, is a living, growing place, all over.

But then again, although the Kallas plan would drain much of the life out of London that is now there, life of other sorts would move in.  It might indeed be quite nice.  For some, like tourists and tourist crap shop owners, street marketeers, electric motor makers, paving stone makers, road demolishers, etc. etc.

I look forward to comments from fellow TBloggers explaining why this really is a mad plan.

  1. I’m extremely interested in any analysis of the mindset of politicians who ‘think’ they know so much that they can plan a policy over 35 years in advance.

    Best regards

    Posted by Nigel Sedgwick on  30 March 2011 at 11:33 am

  2. I don’t think it’s as mad as it is pointless.

    I’m someone who likes cars and road transport, and this latest ‘we must be seen to do something’ wheeze bothers me not one jot. Personally, I’d be pretty damn amazed if there are any petroleum powered cars left to ban by 2050. We’ll all probably be in a mix of battery electrics, fuel cell, biodiesel, whatever; dependent on application.

    As far as I’m aware, jet aircraft are the vehicles that most require liquid hydrocarbons for engineering reasons, so you could reasonably guess that out of whatever supply of oil there is in 2050 a large portion will be bought by airlines. Heavy trucks will probably be #2. Even with today’s technology only, if oil were to jump to say $300/bbl a fair proportion of today’s motorists (in developed economies anyway) could reasonably buy and run an ‘alternative’ car. If current tech trends continue the alternatives can only get cheaper.

    This is just some petty ‘let’s do something!’ green posturing- you might as well ‘ban’ broadband connections of less than 1mbps in 2050.

    Posted by Friday Night Smoke on  30 March 2011 at 10:34 pm

  3. In this situation I always ask myself what would happen if there were no state.  What would happen if the roads were privately owned?  In the long run pollution (of the obviously harmful to bystanders sort ie not CO2) will be bad for business.  Other cities (I’m assuming no planning here) will spring up offering better air quality so drawing away customers.  So, I would always be looking for ways to reduce pollution cheaply.  I suspect this would be by going after the greatest offenders.  But I don’t think I would be making any predictions for 2050.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  31 March 2011 at 05:55 pm

  4. It will probably too late to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050! And they would have to spend a fortune on the train network, in order to both improve it and to handle the higher demand, it can’t manage the rush hour in the south east quite often!

    As an operator of Private hire and PCV Vehicles, I wonder what type of road transport they will be allowing into central london in 2050, as we send 10’s of vehicles in almost every day!

    Posted by Limo Hire Hertfordshire on  28 April 2011 at 06:27 pm

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