Air pollution was linked to 6.5 million deaths in 2015, according to a study published in The Lancet. Every year, the number grows and the case gets stronger for a drastic mitigation of air pollution. And one of the main ways to do that is to tackle mobility.

Bike share and flying cars

Even though rural areas are exposed to their own forms of pollution, the health impacts of air quality are mostly observed in cities. Today, only 12% of city-dwellers live in areas that comply with the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline levels. By 2050, 66% of mankind is expected to live in cities and urban areas, so the challenge to preserve the health of billions of people will become even more pressing.

The first, obvious and most fundamental way to do that is to tackle mobility — which essentially means developing alternatives to cars. Luckily, initiatives already abound. According to the 2017 Sustainable Cities Mobility Index published by Arcadis, the three most sustainable cities when it comes to mobility are Hong Kong, Zurich and Paris, mostly because they have very efficient public transport systems. While cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Utrecht are the most bike-friendly places in the world. But private actors are also leading the fight against air pollution. There is innovation everywhere. We see start-ups and initiatives that facilitate cycling to work (like Ofo, a station-free bike share platform, or Bikeep and its ultra secure bike parking solution), make car-pooling easier (like Wayzup, that brings together employees of the same company, and Fleetme, which works as an extension of the public transport system), or straight-up invent new kinds of mobility (like Lilium and its 100% electric flying cars, and Seabubbles and its floating taxis).

Two years after the adoption of the Paris agreement, and at the end of a year that has seen the United States withdraw from it, the challenge for clean mobility is as pressing as ever. On December 12th, 4000 people are gathering for the One Planet Summit in Paris to set off new actions on climate change: “a main focus of this event will be to determine how those working in public and private finance can innovate to support and accelerate our common efforts to fight climate change,” write the organisers on the event’s website. France, together with the UK, would notably like to form a group of countries, cities or regions committed to becoming carbon neutral.

While political will is essential if we are to remain under the 2°C objective, change will also keep coming from innovative, cutting-edge private. Today more than ever, we are keeping our eye on European Startup Prize for mobility who will help invent the clean mobility of tomorrow.