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Pune wins C40 ‘united to clean the air we breathe’ award

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PUNE It may be inviting criticism for the recent waterlogging but Pune has done the country proud by winning the ‘C40 united to clean the air we breathe’ C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Award at the C40 World Mayors’ Summit held between October 19 and 21, 2022 at Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pune is among the 10 winners this year announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the award is constituted by Michael R Bloomberg; C40 board president, UN special envoy on climate ambition and solutions, 108th mayor of New York city, and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The award was presented to Pune and Beijing, China, in recognition of their exceptional leadership in tackling the challenge of air pollution by successfully reducing emissions, improving air quality, and safeguarding public health. As per the award announcement, Pune tackled particulate matter levels 10 times higher than what is deemed safe for human beings to breathe by the World Health Organisation (WHO) through a public transport electrification programme.

An official from C40 said, “Electric buses improve air quality and reduce emissions from petrol and diesel engines, which contribute to global heating and climate breakdown. Since launching the project in 2019, 15% of the city’s buses have been electrified and used by 1.2 million passengers. In September 2022, the city will deploy 244 e-buses to expand its e-bus network, followed by 300 mini e-buses later in 2023. These additions will take Pune’s total e-buses to 950, accounting for 40% of the city’s fleet.”

Municipal commissioner of Pune, Vikram Kumar, said, “We are delighted to receive the C40 award under the ‘cleaning the air we breathe’ category, which recognises our efforts towards decarbonising urban mobility. The rapid pace of electrification of our public bus fleet is a testament to our commitment to promoting clean and sustainable modes of transportation. Through this project, we aim to create a replicable model that guides and inspires other cities to take steps towards decarbonising urban mobility and carving a sustainable future.”

Swapping diesel- and petrol- vehicles for electric buses has multiple benefits; the city will save Rs656 crore (US$88 million) throughout the fleet’s lifetime, and the emissions’ savings would be equivalent to taking 3,000 petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars off the roads. Pune ensures that all passengers feel safe and are able to use the e-buses by operating women-only buses and designing all vehicles to be accessible for people with disabilities. A flat-fare policy capped at less than US0.08 cent ensures that residents with lower income are not excluded, enabling everyone in Pune to ride the fleet for work and leisure.

Pune and 69 other cities competed for the prestigious awards this year. The awards celebrate pioneering climate projects led by cities around the world, recognise mayors, and encourage friendly competition between cities keen to demonstrate their successful climate actions and raise global ambition.

C40 executive director Mark Watts said, “The winning projects are excellent examples of cities making a strong impact on their communities. A healthier, cleaner future must be every mayor’s priority. When mayors invest in green recovery, they create jobs and just, thriving communities for all.”

Sadiq Khan, chair of C40 Cities and mayor of London, said, “Cities are leading the way when it comes to tackling the climate emergency. These cities represent some of the best projects from around the world and their commitment to local communities and the planet is impressive. The focus on immediate climate action illustrates the power of cities as doers, not delayers, setting a new level of ambition that I hope will inspire leaders around the world to invest in a greener future.”

C40 is represented by the most ambitious and impactful projects spearheaded by mayors from around the world to tackle the global climate crisis, whereupon awards are given out in five categories that align with this year’s summit theme, ‘united in action’ namely ‘united to clean the air we breathe’, ‘united in building climate resilience’, ‘united to innovate’, and ‘united in building a climate movement’.

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