What can a city do to improve its air quality?

It turns out a lot, as evidenced by the town of Maó on the island of Menorca

The entire quality of life in a city is largely determined by the quality of its air. We may learn that there are many obstacles ahead as we strive to turn the tide and find solutions to rehabilitate and rediscover a cleaner environment.

In this sense, the Spanish city of Maó can be extremely instructive. Its administration announced a comprehensive strategy for improving air quality on Monday, October 11th. It has been in the works since June 2017 and was approved last month, and it comprises of 61 steps that will help to reduce pollution directly or indirectly!

Contemplate the fact that Maó has a population of less than 30,000 people when reading this, and then consider the type of efforts that larger cities would have to do to achieve the same goal.

Many people may be shocked to learn that Maó’s air has to be preserved

Maó is the capital of Menorca (Balearic Islands) and is most known for giving mayonnaise its name, which is derived from the French phrase sauce mahonnaise. It also boasts one of the world’s largest natural harbours, which is very clean owing to its contained structure.

Today, though, we’d like to share its Air Quality Improvement Plan, which took over four years to complete. It’s kind of eye-opening to see how multi-faceted air pollution is and what remedies are available.

There are 61 measures in all, divided into five divisions

The Plan consists of 61 actions organized into five action blocks: land mobility, energy efficiency, monitoring and emission reduction during high-pollution episodes, airport mobility, and others.

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It suggests up to fourteen avenues of action in terms of land mobility. Improve the service and offer of current public transportation in Menorca; effective mobility management in big businesses; secure car parks with electric chargers near public transportation stations; and promoting the replacement of cars with those that operate on lower or zero-emissions fuels.

Further ideas include optimizing and creating deterrent parking lots to encourage public transportation; stricter speed control and limits; encouraging car-sharing; increasing exclusive spaces for public transportation and pedestrians at the expense of current private vehicle spaces; optimizing bicycle-public transportation intermobility; and improving and expanding pedestrian spaces.

In terms of energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy sources is critical. There are ideas such as guaranteeing the installation of photovoltaic solar energy on big rooftops, as well as complying with the need for large and medium-sized businesses to calculate their yearly carbon footprint and develop strategies to reduce emissions.

Furthermore, the Urban Distribution of Goods services will be optimized, promoting sustainable mobility, encouraging the use of renewable energies, informing and advising on their use, promoting local trade, replacing the administration’s modes of transportation with low or zero-emission vehicles, and optimizing the control of emissions in road works and road cleaning.

The Plan suggests conducting information and awareness campaigns on air pollution, as well as promoting population involvement in volunteer air quality measurements, in the third block of activities dedicated to preventing instances of high pollution.

Similarly, the Plan envisions incorporating air pollution into epidemiological monitoring, revising current municipal emissions inventories, modifying the short-term Action Plan, and studying air quality with passive sensors.

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In terms of airport mobility, it is proposed to draft an Air Quality Improvement Plan for Mahon Airport, as well as a Sustainable Mobility Plan, which would include greening the land fleet and equipment, optimizing aircraft mobility within the runway, and proper urban integration of the overall airport system.

Other initiatives supported by the Plan include the Balearic Institute of Energy’s (IBE) activities, the research and construction of green connections, and the promotion of organic agriculture.

Maó also contains three fixed stations (Pous, Port de Maó, and Maó EMEP) that are part of the Balearic Network for Monitoring and Control of Air Quality, and which have been supplemented by a mobile station on property held by the Menorca Waste and Energy Consortium for approximately a year.