Massive urbanization is one of the biggest challenges the world is facing right now. People are migrating to cities at a rapid pace and this demands quick motorization which means a rise in cars on roads, especially for developing countries.

Cars run on fossil fuels and emit large amounts of CO2, PM particles and a whole slew of dangerous gases that create air pollution and threaten people’s health. The World Health Organization confirmed this speaking at COP21 – the biggest climate conference that happened last year in Paris.

“More than 7 million people die each year from air pollution related diseases. Diesel is a major cause of air pollution.” – said dr. Carlos Dora from WHO

The city of Bejing has been battling air pollution for a very long time. The issue got a lot of media coverage when Chinese artist Wang Renzheng  created a brick out of pollution particles sucked up from Beijing’s air in a campaign to raise awareness about the country’s pollution levels.

The transport sector has been at a constant rise, and due to poor public transport and lack of awareness the primary mode of transport in developing countries are still diesel cars. Biggest issue for urban transport has been the fact that its unreliable and often inadequate.


The last two years air pollution has reached dangerous levels in cities across the Balkans. Sarajevo and Skopje have been dubbed the most polluted cities in Europe many times last year. Young people in Skopje demanded the city to add more night bus lines by setting up tents at bus stations around the city. Pedestrians and cyclists from Skopje protested demanding safer streets and better infrastructure for non-motorized transport.


Developed countries are not spared from air pollution, the city of Paris that hosted the biggest climate conference has itself been battling heavy smog and polluted air for years. The issue was raised again when in the spring of 2015 the smog in Paris got so bad the French government decided to introduce emergency measures and halve the cars on roads.

Norway says it doesn’t have to be like this. They have set an example in the use of electric cars on roads by offering incentives such as removing taxes and offering free parking for electric vehicles, and more than one-fifth of new car sales in Norway are of electric vehicles. Norway, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands are also countries with most bicycles per capita. All of them have vast networks of cycling pathways in their cities and tight roads for cars.

“When you mention transport people immediately think of roads. But we don’t need more roads. We have to create better conditions for public transport and make people think of alternative means of transport, such as cycling and walking” – says Carlos Felipe Pardo from Despacio

On the sidelines of COP21 last December, 70 rail companies representing more than 50 per cent of global rail traffic, signed a pledge committing to general sustainability targets.

“With growing distances in the world mobility is not an objective it is an instrument. We also have to think of ways to reduce the need for mobility.” –  said José Viegas, Secretary-General, International Transport Forum, OECD

We now know that one of the main reasons behind climate change are changes in the greenhouse effect, which affects the amount of heat retained by Earth’s atmosphere. 65% of global greenhouse gas emissions creating the rise in global temperatures are carbon dioxside from fossil fuels and the industrialization process.

“Air pollution has the same cause as climate change – solving air pollution helps solve climate change.”- explained dr. Dora from WHO

Despite promises made in their NDC’s, and overly optimistic scenarios to reduce GHG emissions by 30- 40%, countries from Western Balkans keep the door wide open to fossil fuels as a main source of energy and transportation.

                                                                                                                                              By Elena Nikolovska