Blue Sky Recovery - How to keep lockdown low levels of air pollution in European cities

The vaccines rolling out across Europe promise an end to lockdown policies. This is also a decisive moment for clean air. Road traffic and, consequently, congestion and air pollution in many cities has already risen to levels close to or at times above those observed before the pandemic, as subsequent lockdowns have been less strict and citizens started to use their car more. As a slow path to a post-pandemic world begins, will cities go back to a deadly ‘pollution as usual’, humanity’s foremost environmental health threat, or will they use the recovery and the EU stimulus funds to fast-forward the transition towards clean and healthy mobility?

This report uses the latest research on mobility trends to chart the changes in urban mobility needed for a rapid but realistic return and lock-in of the record low air pollution levels of March and April 2020. The analysis investigates the two most common strategies applied across Europe to clean up mobility: On the one hand, a roll-out of zero-emission vehicles whose sales surged across Europe in 2020 with Europe surpassing China for the first time; on the other a wider overhaul of mobility relying also on a switch to active travel, public transport and teleworking. The results are presented in terms of percentage switch from fossil fuel transport to zero-mission vehicles and mobility; metrics designed to allow policymakers to adjust their mobility strategies, city budgets and investment programmes.