UNEP News Release
For information only
Not an official record
Jointly issued by UNEP and Habitat
Habitat and UNEP welcome the weekend car ban in Italy
NAIROBI, 8 February 1999 - Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Acting Executive Director
of UNCHS (Habitat), today welcomed the banning of private cars in the city
centre of Rome and in over towns and cities across Italy. In Rome, the
banning of private car use will last for 10 hours on Sundays during which
time public transport, and entry into museums and archaeological sites will
be free. Other cities are all set to make their own rules. The ban is a
pilot project by the city authorities in Italy to reduce the amount of air
pollution from cars.
According to research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) the emissions
from car exhausts are responsible for more deaths than road accidents. The
WHO study which looked at data from Austria, France and Switzerland found
that exposure to pollution caused an estimated 21,000 deaths a year in the
three countries. In addition, the researchers calculated that car fumes
caused 300,000 extra cases of bronchitis in children and 15,000 extra
hospital admissions for heart disease made worse by pollution.
Cars are needed," said Toepfer, "but the health of the people in our cities
depends on balancing the demand for private vehicles with other means of
public transport. Also, innovative solutions are needed that will reduce
the pollution from car emissions and minimise the congestion caused by
cars, he said.
The rapid increase in the number of cars has only made the problem worse.
In 1950, there were only 70 million vehicles in the world and most of these
were in Europe and America. Today, there are over 500 million and in many
developing countries the annual growth rate is set to continue. In the
1970s and 1980s Delhi's motor vehicle fleet grew at an astounding average
of around 20 per cent. In China, the number of vehicles has almost doubled
every five years.
According to UNEP's recently released Global Environment Outlook 2000,
motor vehicles emit well over 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide
each year. These emissions account for more than 15 per cent of global
fossil fuel carbon dioxide releases and represent a major contribution to
But the rapid expansion of private vehicles can be contained through more
balanced transport policies and better land use planning. For example,
since 1974 Curitiba in Brazil has managed to design an integrated bus
system that has encouraged 25 per cent of its car commuters back into
buses. With express and speedy buses operating mostly along busways or
exclusive segregated tracks almost 75 per cent of the commuters in Curitiba
now travel by public transport.
The car ban in Italy is the latest in a series of moves by local
authorities all over the world to reduce vehicle pollution and congestion.
Earlier in the new year, the city of Athens launched a metro system which
city authorities were quoted as saying will cut choking fumes in one of
Europe's most polluted capital cities by 30 per cent and reduce traffic
volumes by 10 per cent. Similarly, in South East Asia, Bangkok has a new
weapon in the war against congested streets and pollution. Bangkok's
Skytrain began regular commercial service in December last year.
"Well planned and integrated transport policies are the best way to balance
the use of private vehicles with the need for public transport," said
Toepfer. "In the case of Italy, the Ministry of Environment must be
applauded for setting an important precedent. The Sunday car ban gives the
city back to its citizens," he said.
For more information please contact: Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman on tel:
+254-2-623292, fax: 623692, email:
, Robert Bisset on +254-2-623084, email:
, or Sharad Shankardass, Ag. Head, Media and Press
Relations, Habitat, tel: 254-2-623153, fax: 624060, email:
UNEP News Release 2000/10
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