our diesel dinosaurs

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our diesel dinosaurs

On July 1, Paris, France, imposed an unprecedented measure. To fight air pollution, the city banned cars older than 20 years from entering the city during daylight hours from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays.

Since Koreans scrap their cars after an average of eight years, you may assume that not many cars would be older than 20 years. But French people are notorious for treasuring older goods, and 10 percent of all vehicles in France, or 160,000 cars, are older than 20 years.

Therefore, the ban on old cars is not a simple issue for the Parisians. Especially the working class people own older vehicles, and they criticize that the policy targets the underprivileged. But the municipal authorities of Paris did not budge and went on with the ban.

Paris is not the only city firm on environmental preservation. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is widely criticized for supporting Brexit, was very popular during his tenure thanks to his drastic environmental policies. He commuted on bicycle and discouraged diesel-fueled vehicles from entering central London. Diesel cars would have to pay £12.5 fee. Also, most of the black cabs in London were diesel-fueled at the time, and they were all to be replaced with electric cars by 2018.

Lately, getting rid of diesel cars is a global trend. India is notorious for air pollution, and Delhi became the first city to ban new diesel cars last year. The policy is to be expanded to 15 other cities.

Norway is even stricter. While the country boasts cleaner air than any others, ruling and opposition politicians agreed last month to ban sales of gasoline-fueled vehicles as well as diesel cars from 2025. No cars except for pollution-free vehicles such as electric and hydrogen-fueled cars will be allowed. Germany is considering enforcing as a similar measure from 2030.

How about Korea? The policy that the government proposed as a detailed execution plan to fight fine dusts focuses on investing on environmentally friendly vehicles and encouraging diesel cars to be scrapped early.

However, a “special measure” that President Park Geun-hye mentioned is nowhere to be found. It is doubtful that the authorities not aware of the high-intensity policies promoted in Europe. The administration is afraid of being criticized or approval rating going down.

No policy can satisfy everyone. But the air pollution policy would barely succeed when the administration is determined to endure criticism and firmly implement strict plans. Last year, Korea’s fine dust level in air pollution was the worst among 38 OECD members.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 5, Page 31

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Nam Jeong-ho
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