Ten ways Lisbon cut emissions

Lisbon has cut CO2 emissions by 50% in the past few years, so how has such a dramatic reduction been achieved ask Geraldine Herbert

Lisbon is the European Green Capital 2020, an award that recognised the city’s commitment to achieving a better urban environment and the transformation that has taken place in the past decade. The city illustrates how green initiatives can support economic recovery and enrich the lives of citizens. Here are just a few of those initiatives

  1. Cheap Public Transport – In the city of Lisbon car use is about 46%, whereas at the level of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area it reaches 57%. This is a result of 5 decades of urban-sprawl in the metropolitan area with a car-centric global approach. Since April 2019 a new family pass has been introduced for public transport making it cheaper to ditch the car. Also public transport is free for children under age 13 and for adults over 65. There is also a day pass for €1 allowing travel around the inner city.
  2. Increase parking costs – Parking costs in Lisbon have been redesigned in the last decade, with heavier tariffs in areas with high public transportation coverage and frequency, all aiming to promote public transport use. Parking tariffs are also used to fund implementation of the bicycle infrastructure and the municipal shared bike system expansion.
  3. Invest in cycling – A consistent increase in bicycle investment during the last 12 years changed the face of the city for cycling commuting. Twenty million euro has been allocated until 2021 to double to 200km of cycleways at the same time. In 2017, Lisbon launched a bike-sharing scheme, with electric bikes comprising two-thirds of the fleet to encourage cycling in the hillier parts of the city and 20,000 journeys are taken every day.
  4. Introduce a Low Emission Zone – In 2011, Lisbon created the first Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) in Portugal. Centred in the downtown area, the LEZ covers approximately 30% of the city and involves removing fossil fuel cars from the downtown area to create 6.5 hectares of new public spaces for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
  5. Increase the bus fleet – Between 2017 and 2023, 420 new buses are being purchased by the municipality and in the last year alone, the total number of buses was raised from 600 to 700. Out of the new 420 buses to the bought, 45 are e-buses and the rest run mainly on natural gas, which although still fossil fuel, emit far less PM (particulate matter) or oxides of nitrogen (NOx). While e-buses will still represent only around 6% of the fleet, city officials believe they will be able to increase the share of zero-emissions buses due to the rapidly changing e-bus market and the potential for the arrival of other technologies in the coming years. In addition to bus investments, 15 new large capacity trams are being purchased to reinforce service line 15 along the riverside while 10 new conventional trams will reinforce the service of the other lines.
  6. Remove Car Spaces -The process of removing car space for public space is never smooth in any city around the world. But in the last decade, due to the success of initiatives taken so far in Lisbon, a movement of support is growing. In fact, after major changes in a business district in the centre of Lisbon, a great economic dynamic could be measured using data regarding purchase transactions in local businesses. This increase came after major changes to circulation introducing more pedestrian and bicycle public space and better public transport circulation. This is slowly changing the minds of business owners and the latest interventions and the debates around them have been already substantially different, with a new range of local stakeholders defending the municipality and proposing these changes ahead through participatory actions.
  7. LED Traffic Lights – The city shifted to a 100% LED technology traffic light system and within 2 years of making the switch the Municipality now has 94% savings on energy consumption and almost 2400 tons of CO2 emissions avoided yearly.
  8. Reduce Speed Limits – Several 30 km/h zones are being introduced to further improve safety and air quality within neighbourhoods, while also increasing safety and promoting more sustainable modes of transport like cycling and walking.
  9. Support Electric Car usage – Lisbon has installed 653 public e-charging points in the city, 100 of which are semi-fast and three are super-fast charging. The municipality car fleet is currently 91% electric.
  10. Get the entire city involved – There is a growing participation of businesses and institutions in the city’s climate goals. As a culmination of that collaborative work with all these stakeholders, Lisbon launched a corporate pact at the beginning of 2020, the “Lisbon Commitment – Climate Action 2030” whereby these organizations commit to actions regarding mobility, energy, water, waste, etc, in a joint collaborative effort.

Fast facts about Lisbon

  • Portugal’s capital city and its largest city
  • Population of 547,800
  • Surface area 100 km2
  • Originally settled by the Romans (195 BC)
  • Located at the Tagus River Estuary, a Natura 2000 wildlife protected area 
  • 1,000 hectares of a sustainable FSC certified inner-city Forest Park
  • Dolphins have returned to the estuary after an absence of almost 50 years

Author: Geraldine Herbert

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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