Citizens want fossil-free cities and clean air: WWF survey

Posted on 14 May 2018

A recent international survey conducted by WWF-Sweden shows that clean air is the main priority for citizens’ health and well-being in a sustainable city. The survey was conducted in India, USA, Mexico and Sweden. In all countries, 90 percent plus think it is important to live in a sustainable city. The main action citizens want their cities to prioritize to reach that goal was increased investment in and use of renewables, such as wind and solar power in the U.S. (36 %) and Sweden (37 %), and fossil-free public transport in India (47 %) and Mexico (49 %).
“If cities and decision makers play their cards wisely, we have a huge opportunity here. Going fossil free will help us cope with the climate crisis – and allow us to solve a huge health problem: outdoor air pollution. This step is also rapidly becoming more feasible, with falling prices on renewable energy globally,” says Jennifer Lenhart, programme manager, One Planet City Challenge, WWF-Sweden.
A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), says air pollution causes one in nine deaths worldwide. Many of these air pollutants are also greenhouse gases (GHGs) aggravating global warming. Transport causes almost a quarter of global GHG emissions and of course car traffic heavily contributes to outdoor air pollution, especially in cities.
“Decision-makers in cities must make powerful changes to support sustainable mobility systems. Are we ready to let go of our car addiction? Probably not yet. But the electrification of the automotive fleet is important. The conversion to fossil-free, and possibly car-free cities, is crucial if we are to live up to the commitments of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and keep warming to 1.5°C. In the process we will live healthier lives and breath cleaner air,” says Lenhart.
Climate change is one of the largest challenges mankind faces and rapid urbanization makes cities key players in solving the climate crisis. More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and cities are the source of more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Notes for Editors:
Key results from the survey:
  • Survey respondents in all countries agreed to the importance of having sustainable cities with: 90 % in the United States, 99% in Mexico, 96% in India and 91% in Sweden.
  • Clean air to breathe and clean water ranked at the top among all countries surveyed, as a response to the question of what citizens desire for their health and well-being in a sustainable city. Both alternatives were at 66% in USA, and both at 55% in Mexico. In India the figures were 76% for clean air and 67% for clean water. India is the place where 11 of the world’s 12 most air polluted cities are situated. In Sweden 43% voted for clean air and 48% for clean water. The much lower figure here reflects that only a fraction of the municipalities in Sweden have higher air pollution levels than recommended. This priority outranked other sustainable development goals by far such as decent job opportunities.
  • The top priority survey respondents identified for their cities during the next four years was: increased investments and use of renewables, such as wind and solar, in the U.S. (36%) and Sweden (37%). And fossil free public transport in Mexico (49%) and India (47%).
  • Among more radical solutions the following was top rated: solar panels on all suitable roofs (18% in the U.S. and 22% in India), free public transport (26% in Sweden) and access to eco-technologies (in Mexico 21%).
  • The estimated power to influence local politicians towards a sustainable city differed among the countries, with the highest results in India (60 %) and lowest in Sweden (39%). The United States (47%) and Mexico (41%) are located in between the others.
The WWF campaign We Love Cities, is calling on citizens in 50 cities on five continents to vote for the transformation of cities and provide suggestions on how cities can change.
For further information, contact
Victoria Olausson  or check
Facts about the survey: 4000 respondents were surveyed, 1000 in each country: the United States, Mexico, India and Sweden. The interviews were conducted in online panels and verified against the population as a whole with regards to gender, age and regional distribution. Field period was set to April 2018. The interviews in Sweden were conducted by Sifo and in the other countries by Syno International. 


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