Thousands march in protest as newly elected governor of Madrid ditches pollution-combating traffic policies

Madrid’s newly elected conservative mayor, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, has done away with the city’s clean-air traffic restrictions, collectively referred to as “Madrid Central.” The move is a regulatory U-turn and one that seems in sharp contradiction with the direction of other major European cities.

The “Madrid Central” restrictions established city-zones for which high-emitting, fuel-inefficient cars were banned, and all other vehicles were required to pay admittance fees. The policy was introduced by the previous liberal mayor, Manuela Carmena, in an effort to comply with the European Union’s clean air standards, following a warning that Madrid air quality was failing to meet its promised targets.

New governor Martinez-Almeida announced Monday that effective July 1st, 2019, the city will no longer enforce the “Madrid Central” policy, despite a 32% reduction in nitrogen dioxide emission since the policy’s introduction.1

Madrid city center prior to air pollution mitigating policyMadrid city center traffic, before “Madrid Central” had gone into effect. (Photo credit: Basilio CC BY-SA 3.0)

The decision has left many residents feeling frustrated, believing that the majority is not truly being heard, and worried that fragmented politics across the five main political parties is causing environmental issues to slip in prioritization.

In an effort to protect the “Madrid Central” policy, thousands gathered in protest –despite soaring temperatures that day. Protestors wore pollution masks painted with skull and crossbones, and paraded banners that displayed sentiments such as, “Fewer cars, better air" and "The new city hall seriously harms your health."2

The city hall team reserves the ability to audit the system and make amends by the end of September 2019.

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