Town Hall Meeting online

On December 9, the Ukrainian School of Political Studies organized an online Town Hall Meeting as part of the World Forum for Democracy.

This year, the World Forum for Democracy, which usually takes place in Strasbourg in November, has been moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, now the forum events will take place not for a few days, but for the next 12 months. People worldwide will try to find an answer to one question – can democracy save the environment?

One of the biggest environmental problems of mankind is air pollution. An important factor in this is the mass use of cars. This problem is especially acute in large cities – such as, for example, the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. But is there anything that can be done about air pollution through cars? We decided to discuss this topic during the Town Hall Meeting.

Town Hall Meeting is one of the formats of holding city meetings, during which the community can jointly find a solution to a significant problem.

However, this time the discussion was attended by alumni of the Ukrainian School of Political Studies and interested Ukrainian citizens. They have formed “a community of a big city”, which is looking for a solution to the problem of emissions from the cars’ use.

The Town Hall Meeting takes place in several stages. The first is to understand the importance of the problem and the need to find a solution. During the event, Olena Maslyukivska, Associate Professor of Ecology at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, told the participants about the true extent of air pollution due to cars’ use.

Olena Maslyukivska, Associate Professor of Ecology at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

“In large cities, emissions from mobile transport sources – cars – cause major air pollution. For Kyiv, for example, in 2015, 78% of air pollution was caused by cars. And this year, Kyiv has several times reached the top of the ranking of cities with the most polluted air IQAIR, and sometimes even headed it. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is one of the main health risk factors associated with the environment. Polluted air contributes to the appearance and worsens the course of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases”, – the expert explained.

After a discussion with the environmental expert, participants received possible scenarios for solving the problem, which were specially developed for this Town Hall Meeting. 4 scenarios were presented for discussion.

In the first of them, it was proposed to leave everything as it is and not influence the use of cars by public policy measures. This scenario does not solve the problem, but it does not require additional funding and allows authorities to focus initially on solving other air pollution problems.

However, most Town Hall Meeting participants almost immediately rejected this scenario, noting that if the problem is not addressed now, the situation will constantly deteriorate.

The second solution to the problem contains a proposal to increase fuel quality and encourage the use of certain fuels that are more environmentally friendly. Ukraine has a large number of old cars that citizens bought cheaply in Europe. In addition, many people still drive cars with diesel engines, which pollute the air more than other fuels. Therefore, this scenario proposes to introduce certain rules for the use of diesel engines and new quality standards for fuel.

This scenario was also primarily not supported by the participants, as they agreed that reducing the use of diesel fuel would not significantly affect the level of air pollution. The problem with cars is much more complex and therefore requires a complex solution.

The third scenario proposes to create an economic mechanism that would encourage citizens to “switch” to electric transport. This scenario described the specific steps that the state should take to increase electric cars’ share in the overall structure of road transport to 70% in 2045 for Ukraine.

The third scenario was supported by the Town Hall Meeting participants in part because of its environmental friendliness. However, the participants also concluded that the introduction of this scenario is still unrealistic for Ukraine. The construction of the necessary infrastructure for electric cars and the stimulation of electric transport production in Ukraine will require substantial funds, which Ukraine cannot yet spend on this problem.

The basis of the fourth scenario is a paradigm shift in mobility. This scenario is about developing such a policy that would change users’ priorities of urban space, putting in the first place the needs of pedestrians, then cyclists, public transport, and then personal cars. Among the proposed measures are the development of municipal transport, restrictions on the cars’ use in the city, pedestrian and bicycle routes network development.

The participants liked the latter scenario the most, as it proposes to reduce the level of air pollution and reduce the number of road transport in the city in general.

After discussing all the scenarios, the Town Hall Meeting participants voted and supported the №4 scenario by a majority. 74% of participants voted for its implementation, the remaining 26% voted equally for scenario №1 and scenario №3.

Based on the results of Town Hall Meeting, a report will be generated, which the Ukrainian School of Political Studies will pass on to representatives of parliament, government, and local authorities to help them better understand how the community wants to solve the problem of air pollution through car use.