France's air pollution crisis became yet more dramatic Monday, as Paris banned half of its region's cars from the roads.
After highly polluted air became trapped close to the ground across France last week by unseasonably warm weather, authorities introduced free public transport over the weekend in Paris, Bordeaux, Caen, and Rouen. Now Paris has announced that only cars with odd numbered registration plates will be allowed to drive as of 5:30 this morning. To enforce the ban, police patrols will monitor traffic and dole out €22 fines to transgressors. Should poor air quality continue—and it's highly likely it will—on Tuesday cars with even numbered registration plates will take to the roads alone. Many are already asking whether the temporary ban will really work, and whether such short-term measures will be enough.
Early reports suggest it's working okay. France's National Centre for Road Information reported that congestion is down by 60 percent. This should help to ease, if not eradicate, high levels of toxic particulates entering the atmosphere, where warm air above is trapping them close to the ground.
In the future, however, Paris will need to do a lot more. Driving bans like the current one only seem to work as an emergency stopgap, and with climate change progressing, the sort of unseasonal weather France is experiencing is only likely to increase. As long-term measures, similar bans have failed before in other cities, including Lagos, Nigeria, and Milan, Italy, where drivers with the money simply bought a second car to circumvent the ban. Traffic levels remained similar.